Don’t pretend you didn’t come to Rome with the fantasy of falling deeply in love, possibly experiencing the best sex of your life and potentially living happily ever. It’s okay. There’s no judgement here – we’re all practising or recovering Italophiles. In fact, calling this a ‘fantasy’ degrades what is, in my opinion, a brilliant and feasible plan for your time here in Italy.
Do Italians do it better? Have fun discovering the answer to this question for yourself. But to help you in your Roman courtships, I thought I’d share a few personal experiences that perhaps you can learn from. I apologise to my male readers, this is dating from a girl’s perspective, however, at least it may give you an idea of what you’re competing with when you’re trying to woo a local girl. As a foreign girl in Rome it’s not hard to get a date, in fact, the real art is in choosing your company with discernment.
He picked me up in a gullwing extravaganza, took me to Assunta Madre, and suggested flying my family out to Italy from Australia at his expense in case I missed them.
Cashed up and Connected
They pick you up at your house from inside the centro storico because the ‘varchi attivi’ sign poses no problem. They have an apartment (or two) in the centre and therefore have a vehicle pass to drive through the centre of town as a resident. They insist on picking you up from your door because they want to show off their very expensive car, even though the restaurant is within walking distance. I had one of these types pick me up in what seemed like a spaceship Lamborghini and take me to La Pergola, the only three-Michelin star restaurant in Rome. Admittedly it was one of the best and most experiential meals of my life. He organised a meeting with the world famous Executive Chef Heinz Beck, a signed copy of his recipe book and the promise of private cooking classes. Another gentleman of this ‘type’ picked me up in a gullwing extravaganza straight out of a Bond film, took me to Assunta Madre, which again, is a beautiful fine dining experience and suggested flying my family out to Italy from Australia at his expense in case I ‘missed them’. They talk of hooking you up jobs, apartments, sorting out your visa issues and to be fair, this is the type of country where you need a network to make things happen. The problem with this type is that often they are Italian men of a certain age who are like Anglosaxon males going through a mid-life crisis with the car, the late nights, the arm candy but they’ve leap-frogged the family and kids part so they have no emotional maturity or basic relationship know-how. They have the behaviour and lifestyle of a 26-year-old boy, the cash flow and connections of a man twice that age, yet the immaturity and fear of commitment present in Peterpan guys who have never had a real relationship. They can be fun if you feel like being spoilt but dull conversationalists when you realise everything is tainted by their everpresent fear of growing old and settling down.
Moving Festa with a Side of Famiglia
Then there are those who organise a series of events so that you go from day at the beach straight to an aperitivo, on to dinner, then a rooftop party and then dancing. These guys get an A+ for organisation and Rome is made for these types of multi-location dates where swimming merges organically into dancing over aperitivo anyway. I had one experience where a boy picked me up for an aperitivo, followed by a fashion parade, followed by a trip out to a major party in a villa halfway to Tuscany and after dancing until sunrise I was dropped back home to sleep for two hours before he was back to take me out to his family’s country villa where his father was cooking a traditional lunch. This type of non-stop action is a heady mix for any girl, let alone an Italophile. The move of taking a girl home to mamma is not to be undervalued. Some Italian boys will profess their love, swear you’re the only one but hide you from their parents and close friends because ultimately you’re nothing but a foreign fling and they don’t want probing questions from their family about their intentions with ‘that girl you brought home for pasta’.
It’s every Roman’s go-to date routine that they’ve been using on foreign women for hundreds of years
Choose Your Own Adventure
One very clever and considerate ragazzo gave me four options, including a picnic and bike riding in Villa Borghese, lunch in the piazza at the incredible seafood restaurant Pierluigi, a trip out to swim, sip cocktails and dance at Fregene, or a pool party with a group of stylish young friends with a villa in the hills of Rome. If your date is just offering you ‘the view from Gianicolo’, I say he lacks imagination.
The ones who are deadly for a foreign girl are those who tease you with lines like “Let’s just go away on my yacht for the weekend to Capri” or “I have this little villa in Tuscany, can I take you there for a few days and show you where I grew up?” or even “A group of us are going to Sardegna for the weekend, there’s a yacht, there’s a house, there’s a party – no pressure, we just go as friends, I pick you up in 10, bring a bikini and a cocktail dress.” This kind of invitation does happen in Italy and it can be tempting because often they are ‘group activities’ so you’re not inclined to get romantic if you decide you don’t like their company halfway through a cocktail in Positano… however, you have to be careful. Italian men pay for everything and so it’s my opinion that if you’re still undecided about your feelings for the ‘whisker’, it’s good manners to decline a weekend where he foots the conto.
Straniera Package Tour
“You are not Italian? Ah, it would be ‘un piacere‘ to show you Rome by night on my Vespa.” How many times have I heard this? And you know, the first three or four times it really is a beautiful way to spend an evening. After a while though, you realise that it doesn’t really tell you anything about the creativity or effort of the boy in question, as it’s every Roman’s go-to date routine that they’ve been using on foreign women for hundreds of years.
Diehard Dinner Daters
These are almost like the kind above in that they have zeroed in on the poetic image of an Italian guy cooking at home for a foreign girl. Many of them have no idea what they’re doing in the kitchen and are just using mamma’s monthly supply of pasta sauce that they defrosted 20 minutes before you came, however, they get extra points for going to the trouble of cooking and inviting you to their home. Be warned though, this can often be a thinly veiled attempt to get you naked as it’s easier than taking you out to dinner and then convincing you to come inside.
They invite you away skiing or sailing or out for a night dancing with all their super cool friends. This can be great fun and an excellent way to broaden your social circle. The only thing to watch out for is whether he’s just a serial dater who never takes on the official title of ‘fidanzato’. Don’t accept it if they tell you that Rome is all about dating multiple people and keeping things casual. If an Italian feels strongly about you and isn’t seeing other people on the side, it’s official to their friends, family and everyone in their home village. Beware of the phrase ‘ci frequentiamo‘, which basically means, ‘we’re seeing each other and sleeping together but I don’t consider her important enough to make her my official girlfriend’.
Want to read about real life dating in the Eternal City? You can find my ramblings on this subject in How to Flirt and Compliment in Italian and in What’s it Really Like to Date an Italian or in What to Cook an Italian Lover.