When I first started dating my now husband, I had a severe knee injury plaguing me. I would eventually end up having three surgeries and two years of physical therapy that sidelined me and drastically changed the course of my life. It also made it nearly impossible to visit him in his native Italy, where the original injury happened. So, he surprised me.
He told my parents and me that someone had to go to the airport to pick up a gift that a pilot named Raffaele Buono would be bringing on his behalf. I, on crutches, remained on the family’s couch, while my parents traveled to the airport. My parents stood with a sign reading “Buono” and a bottle of Johnny Walker to give this mystery guest as a thank you. My boyfriend showed up instead. He was the gift. And Raffaele Buono was an invented character (and had the name of my actual eventual brother-in-law). When my now husband showed up at the door and I hobbled over to open it, I was more in love than ever before. That was just the beginning.
Romance must be eternal. Passion wanes. Real life takes hold. But you have to put in some effort to stay connected to your partner and to lift each other up in good times and especially in bad. No one knows how to woo better than the Italians. They’re not called Latin lovers for nothing. Here are some ideas plucked straight from the Boot that truly separate the boys from the men (but can work for women, too, because romance isn’t one sided).
- Look a person in the eye. I wrote a story about the appeal of Italian men more than a decade ago, and it resonated with so many people that I still hear from folks about it today. American women, especially, come to me to complain about how men in these here parts are never as sexy as the Italians they’ve met. You know why? It’s all about eye contact. Italian men look women straight in the eye. That’s right. The eye, not the boobs. Novel idea, huh?
- Compliment a person. People just don’t say nice things to each other much anymore. I blame the Internet. Regardless of the reason, this lack of niceties makes compliments all the more refreshing — not to mention romantic. Tell your wife she looks hot in those jeans or that your husband has a beautiful smile. You will reap great rewards for simply speaking the truth out loud.
- Express your feelings. So many of us feel like we’ll be seen as weak or cheesy if we wear our heart on our sleeves. But if we don’t tell our significant others that we are in love, that they bring meaning to our life, that mamma’s Sunday sauce is the only thing as comforting as their embrace, they will never know what is truly in our heart. People can’t read minds, after all. Italians will shout their feelings from the center of the piazza. Take, for example, my husband’s love letter in the snow in the photo above. He actually threw pebbles at my office window to alert me to it. Finding creative, over-the-top ways like this one to share the message is even better.
- Experience food together. Everything in Italian culture revolves around eating, and love is no different. An Italian man, who loves you or just wants to woo you, is going to feed you well. He may even gently place the food in your mouth with his hand. It won’t be an accident when he traces your lips and brushes your cheek while you’re chewing. When he hands over mamma’s meatballs, you’ll know it’s true love and this could very well be your forever.
- Take a vacation. Americans live to work, and Italians work to live. Mainly, they earn money to pay for their expensive tastes in food and travel. My husband once surprised me with a trip to Venice and Padova, where we got engaged at the Sant’ Antonio church, where his father had prayed for him, a son, to be born. Even when money has been tight, we have traveled to an agriturismo (a farm-based bed and breakfast type of place) in Benevento and the beach in our own native Ischia. Even if you just take time off from work and lock yourselves in your bedroom, you can make it a vacation to remember. Wink. Wink.
- Touch each other. Italian men, who are wooing you, are going to grab you and hold you and caress your hand and face and, yes, butt. They want you to understand that they can’t keep their hands off you. Who doesn’t find that appealing? Of course, it’s creepy coming from the stranger on the subway with you. But it’s awesome when the one you love finds you so attractive that he can’t resist touching you. It also revs you up for the fun stuff if you know what I mean – and you do!
- Dream together. This is probably not what you think. Americans say this and really mean come up with a list of feasible goals, such as a five-year plan to buy a house or build your careers or decide when to have a baby. Italians really mean dream something that is not likely to happen but oh-so-much-fun to contemplate. Think about what you’d do if you won the lottery or whether the two of you could ever handle a challenge, such as having to spend a full week in bed together doing the deed. You will bond over the wild dreams, and you might have fun trying to make some of them come true knowing full well it’s never gonna happen.
- Pay attention. Italian men have this way of zeroing in on a woman they are dating (or to whom they are married), so that she feels like the only person in a crowded room. Besides making eye contact, they actually listen to what she says and notice and embrace the little things, such as the passion she gets when she discusses equality or how she sweeps her hair behind her ear whenever she’s concentrating. They also notice whenever she cuts her hair or wears new pants or has been working out – and they tell her how great this newness – whatever it may be – is.
- Wax poetic. When I first started dating my husband, he would send these adorable text messages about how I was an angel, I was as beautiful as a delicate, pink rose, and that he dreamed of kissing my cheek (yes, my cheek on my face). This is all cheesy, but when it’s coming from someone to whom you are attracted, it’s kind of nice. Actually, it’s really nice. And it became a part of my daily routine. I couldn’t wait to see what he’d write next, and it motivated me to return the compliments and charged my batteries at the start of the day. Who doesn’t want to read (or hear) poetry about herself every now and then?
- Be generous. Of course, part of any successful relationship requires generosity on the part of both parties. You have to share what you have, including your time and, certainly, your love. This generosity should extend to the bedroom, too. The hallmark of the Latin lover is his ability to be unselfish when making love. Now, that’s amore!