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6 Facts about Dating in Italy
Find out what the single scene is like in the southern half of the Boot.
by Francesca Di Meglio
Finding love in Italy is as hard as it is anywhere else. But many are drawn to the Latin lovers, particularly in the southern part of the country, where the men still have swagger and the women are sultry. Before you call your zia in Italy to start playing matchmaker for you, learn these 6 facts about the single scene in the homeland:
1. You might get mixed signals.
Southern Italians are flirtatious – from a young age – by nature. It's part of their charm and it's what gets people excited about visiting the country again and again. A good flirt, after all, can have the other person feeling attractive and alluring. Who doesn't want to feel like that over and over again? What's important on the dating scene is to understand the underlying intentions. Sometimes, Italians are flirting with you just to flirt. Sometimes, they are flirting with you to get your business (as in that cabana boy seeking a tip for bringing that juice to you on the beach with a wink and a smile). Sometimes, they're pursuing you. The good news is that when they are interested in dating you, they'll come right out and tell you that you should go on a date with them – or in the case of my husband on the first day we met, they'll ask you when you want to get engaged.
2. Chivalry is alive.
This is the land where men are men and women are women still. What this means is that in southern Italy, men will open doors for women, pull out their chairs, and tell them how beautiful they look when they meet up for a date. Of course, men always pay for women. In fact, even if a group of friends go out to dinner, the men will generally foot the bill for all the women in attendance.
3. If chivalry is alive, so is patriarchy.
The down side to having your man pay for your meals out is that he also still feels like he is the boss. And Italian men might cook a meal for their girlfriend and even guests every now and then, but the majority of household chores rest squarely on the shoulders of women. What does this mean to a single gal dating a southern Italian man? He is probably going to expect you to do the dishes and wash the floors if you're dining at home – and he's not going to help or even offer a hand. If you're spending more time together in the house (for example, if he's sleeping over), he'll expect you to make the bed, do the laundry, and tend to any other tasks in the house. Over time this might change a little bit, but too many Italian mammas treat their boys like kings, which leads them to believe that they can sit on their throne while fairies get all the housework done (and in Italy this includes ironing everything, and I mean everything, including underwear and bathing suits).
4. Young people promote the group date.
Teens date in Italy, too, of course. They tend to start their relationships by going on group dates. You see this in the States, as well. A group of guys meets up with a group of girls at the movies or beach, for instance. They all hang out together but a couple of them are really pairing off. It's a good way to test the waters. If Giovanni turns out to be a dirt bag, Francesca can always ditch him for her girlfriends, who are right by her side. It's also a great way to ward off Italian fathers with daughters, who tend to be overprotective. Papa', he's not really my boyfriend if we are always out with the whole gang. Wink. Wink.
5. Sex happens.
There was a time in southern Italy when everyone was expected to wait until marriage to have sex. Not everyone did. But they were expected to and whoever didn't earned a bad reputation and the shame of the family (especially women who did the deed). Nowadays, everyone has sex before marriage – men, women, aliens from another planet who are visiting the country. It's like a supercharged sexual revolution for those of us who grew up in Italian America with old school nonni and parents. We're kind of shocked by the changes that have taken place since the '50s, which relatively speaking were not all that long ago. Without sex education in school and living in a Catholic country (where the Church expects you to refrain until marriage regardless of reality), many Italians are not well educated about sexual protection, diseases, and unwanted pregnancies. If you decide to get mixed up with an Italian, realize everyone has a past and insist on a condom.
6. Marriage isn't what it used to be.
Italians love sex. And Italians love love. But they're not so big on marriage, at least not in the way they used to be. Youth is extended in the Boot. Many young people go to college until well into their 30s. This makes them unwilling and unable financially to take on the responsibilities of family. So, they put off marriage, sometimes indefinitely. Couples could be together for years and have a child together without ever getting married. And some young men in southern Italy have a reputation for being married to mamma already, which often leads to bad break-ups and their perpetual boyhood, all of which are doing nothing for the country's population or economy. Still, southern Italians' reputation for being great lovers and fun friends precedes them, and getting wooed by the right one can be a beautiful experience (writes the girl who is married to her Italian man for almost five years now).
Di Meglio is the author of Fun with the Family New Jersey (Globe Pequot Press Travel, 2012), the Guide to Newlyweds for About.com, and you can follow her life and work at the Two Worlds Web site.
Article Published 8/5/13
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