Whether you’re traveling to Italy for a brief period or you’ve decided to make it your permanent home, you should always be prepared for a love affair- with the land, the food or perhaps even a new sweetheart. You see, few places on earth are as breathtakingly beautiful as Italy, and when you’re in such lovely surroundings, it’s only natural that you may find yourself in the mood for an exciting romance with a passionate Italian.
You might have some questions after going out with your new honey a couple of times, like “What is the best way to introduce my new boyfriend/girlfriend to my friends” or “What terms of endearment should I use?” Well, fear not. This guide will help you out.
This is the initial stage of the dating process, so it’s important to make a good first impression. Be aware that some girls and guys are looking for what they call “una storia seria” (a serious relationship), while others do not want to get too involved, and are just looking for something temporary. What about you? Play it safe and try to find out if your needs match your date’s before embarking on the relationship.
What is the best way to begin to get acquainted with an Italian? Well, for one, you could show off your Italian language skills! Here are some hints for a nice start:
Ciao! Mi chiamo … e sono … – Hello! My name is … and I am (American, Canadian, etc)
Come ti chiami? – What’s your name?
Scusa se sono sfacciato, ma sei davvero bellissimo/a – I may be shameless, but you are really beautiful.
Mi piaci! – I like you!
Posso offrirti qualcosa/un drink/un caffè? – Can I buy you something/a drink/ a coffee?
(Tu) studi o lavori? – are you a student or are you working somewhere?
Vuoi ballare? – Shall we dance?
Facciamo una passeggiata – Let’s go for a walk
Posso prenderti per mano? – Can I hold your hand?
Posso abbracciarti? – Can I hug you?
Vorrei baciarti – I’d like to kiss you
Mi lasci senza fiato – You leave me breathless
Most Italian couples like to spend time together on a daily basis if possible. If you are dating an Italian already, you may have found that your communication styles differ somewhat, especially if you’re an American and don’t speak Italian fluently.
Some popular activities that Italian couples enjoy include going for a walk, going to the movies, chatting, sharing hobbies and even doing chores together.
Your partner will love to hear “Vuoi che ti accompagni?” (Do you want me to come with you?).
Remember that in Italy it is ok to kiss (“baciarsi”) and hug (“abbracciarsi”) in public. Of course, if you go too far, old ladies will scorn you (yes, it happens for real).
Italians will introduce you to their friends as “il mio ragazzo” or “la mia ragazza”. This is the equivalent of “my boyfriend/girlfriend”. Some folks, especially older people, may use the word “fidanzato/fidanzata”, which is a bit old-fashioned and literally means “fiancé/fiancée”. There are many equivalent dialectal words in different regions of Italy, including:
Sicilian – zitu/zita
Venetian – moroso/morosa
Neapolitan – ‘nnammurato/’nnammurata
Do not fret though. Nobody expects you to get married to this person immediately!
When you are on good terms with your significant other, don’t be surprised if your partner calls you “Amore” (my love) or “Tesoro” (literally “treasure”). Any variation is up to the couple’s creativity and inside jokes, so you may hear some ridiculous and cheesy nicknames. Try not to laugh if you hear people addressing each other using “biscottino” (cookie), “piccolino/piccolina” (literally “small one”), “passerotto” (literally “little sparrow”) or “cucciolo” (literally “puppy”).
When in a relationship, Italians can be quite “geloso/gelosa” (jealous) if you hang out with friends a bit too much or if you are caught ogling people walking by. If you’re too friendly with the opposite sex, you’ll hear about it. You may also experience problems if your sweetheart doesn’t like your best friend, so cross your fingers! They may also act suspicious, “perché non si sa mai” (literally, “because you never know”), especially with friends of the opposite sex.
Depending on how lucky you are, your ragazzo/a will show his/her jealousy more or less often with a “scenata di gelosia” (a jealous fit). Remember that even if it doesn’t show, it doesn’t mean he/she’s not jealous! For example, Italian men will probably detest any other man in your life, except your dad and your brother. He may not want you to hang around with other guys at all. Is he being difficult? No, relax. He’s just jealous.
If your girl gives a dirty look to every woman walking by, all the while squeezing your arm possessively, is she crazy? Does she want to start a catfight in the middle of the street? Don’t worry, she is simply marking her territory. You should just be thankful she’s not screaming “è mio!” (He’s mine!) out loud.
What happens when you’re ready to take the next step in your relationship?
Basically, you have two options: a traditional “matrimonio” (marriage), or a “convivenza” (cohabitation as if married). If you choose the traditional approach, make sure to prepare something original to make that special moment with your sweetheart a memorable one. The question “Vuoi sposarmi?” (Will you marry me?) will inevitably be part of the equation, but try to make it perfect in every way, because everyone will want to know how it happened, and it will be an enduring romantic memory.
Throughout the world, wedding are a time of great celebration, and Italy is no exception. There are many traditions and customs that are observed, and they vary from family to family. For example, some say that the “testimone dello sposo” (the best man) and/or the “testimone della sposa” (the maid of honor) will pay for the “fedi” (the wedding rings), while the bride’s bouquet will be offered by the groom’s mother.
It is considered bad luck for the “sposo” (groom) to see his future wife’s white dress, so this definitely must be avoided at all costs.
The ceremony can be celebrated in a church with the catholic rite (that is, “sposarsi in chiesa”), or be a civil wedding (“sposarsi in Comune”). In both cases, after the ceremony, the newlyweds or “sposi novelli” will be showered with rice by their parents and friends. This is said to bring them good luck.
There will then be a “ricevimento” or wedding party, which will involve music, dances, fine food served on stylish plates, amazing wine in crystal glasses, and of course a magnificent “torta nuziale” (wedding cake). The party can last several hours, so consider it an endurance test! At the end of the party, the couple will give a “bomboniera” to each guest. A bomboniera usually consists of a small decorated sachet filled with “confetti” (sugar-coated almonds) and a small souvenir.
Just before going away with her husband on “Luna di Miele” (honeymoon), “la sposa” (the bride) will close her eyes and throw her bouquet toward a group of unmarried girlfriends, who are gathered at her back. Tradition dictates that she who catches it will be the next one to get married.
Unfortunately, “Lasciarsi” happens, and it is never pleasant. It is very rare to break up with no drama involved!
Sometimes, especially after a huge fight, both people make an effort to show that their life is even better than before. They make a point of letting their “ex” know that they feel just fine, that they are having a great time actually, and that they are “finalmente libero/a” (free at last).
If you’re angry, there are many ways to express your emotions- “non ti voglio più vedere” (I don’t want to see you anymore), “esci dalla mia vita” (I want you out of my life), “vattene!” (begone!), “non ne posso più” (I cannot take it anymore), “ti odio” (I hate you) and “non mi mancherai affatto” (I will not miss you at all).
Sometimes you are not breaking up because of a fight, but just because you have fallen out of love with your partner. This is a sad and difficult situation. In this case, you may want to say something like “mi dispiace” (I’m sorry), “non ti merito” (I don’t deserve you), “per favore, non chiamarmi più” (please, do not call me anymore), “non ti amo più” (I don’t love you anymore), “cerca di essere felice” (just try to be happy) or “troverai qualcuno migliore di me, che ti ami come meriti” (You will find someone who is better than me, who will love you as you deserve).
In either case, Italians may try to be strong and “man up”, even if they are screaming in pain inside. They could reply something on the lines of “ah sì? Anche io ti odio” (Oh yeah? I hate you too), or “finalmente è finita, non ti sopportavo più” (It is finally over, I couldn’t stand you anymore). Or, they may go for “ti prego, non lasciarmi” (I’m begging you, don’t leave me), “ti amo ancora” (I still love you) or “non puoi farmi questo!” (you can’t do this to me!).
Life Goes On
When you finally do find the love of your life and settle in permanently, you can look forward to many years of strong family ties, friends, laughter and joy. Italians consider “la famiglia” to be of a central part of the enjoyment of life, and spending time with the extended family is greatly cherished. If you’re lucky enough, and choose to expand your family with “bambinos” (babies), then the whole exciting and beautiful cycle of dating and love will begin again with the next generation.
Tiziana Battiston is a freelance writer, proof-reader, translator and linguist based in Rome, Italy. Her interests include body art, literature, food, and traveling. She regularly writes for Pimsleur Approach, sellers of language learning courses including Learn Italian and Learn French.