More than a decade ago I wrote a story about why women love Italian men. Since the 1990s, my work has been getting published in magazines, newspapers, and Websites. I wrote an entire book myself, and I’ve written parts of other people’s books. I’ve literally written hundreds of published works. Still, my story on Italian men is probably the most popular ever. It remains among the top five stories in search for the keyword phrase “Italian men.” And I get e-mails from readers who want to date Italian men or want help dealing with the Italian man they already have. For a long while, it was a daily conversation, in fact.
Long-time readers of mine know that I myself dated and married an Italian native of Ischia, the island of my father and ancestors on both sides of my family. So, I know of what I’m writing. I get it. Italian men are charming, and many of them have this way of making a woman feel as though she’s the only one in a room full of people, not to mention the sexiest person on the planet. They don’t call ’em Latin lovers for nothing. They tend to be devoted to their mothers, which has its pros and cons for the women dating them, but guarantees they put women on a pedestal. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that a great many of them are hot to boot.
So, in honor of #NationalBoyfriendDay, I figured I’d share my revelations about how to win over an Italian man. Obviously, this might not work with every Italian man, and I’m making sweeping generalizations to come up with this list. But it will give you an idea, and it draws upon my own firsthand observations and experiences.
1. Find your swagger.
Italian men are confident. Some may even come off as arrogant. There’s a fine line. You have to be their match. They are not going to chase a wallflower. They want a woman who is sure of herself, who can stand up to them when necessary, and who is as decisive and to the point as mamma. Like anyone else, he will walk all over you if you let him, and you’ll never have a healthy, committed relationship. Hold your head high, walk like you know your bottom looks delicious in those jeans, and tell him off if the moment calls for it (even if you think he’s a cross between George Clooney and Brad Pitt, actually especially if you think he is a cross between George Clooney and Brad Pitt).
2. Look the part.
Before there was Facebook, there was the Italian piazza. As a result, Italians are the masters of telling the story of who they are based solely on their looks and clothing. It might be superficial, but the idea of the “bella figura,” which means making a good impression and judging a book on its cover, is very real in the Boot. As an American, I often want to fight this one, but it’s a cultural norm that I’ll never change and neither will you. Therefore, you have to learn to use it to your advantage. Do your hair. Wear make-up (if that makes you feel more confident), and dress nicely. At least, you have to look neat and composed. Be unafraid to stand out. Italians like to make fashion statements since this is one of the world’s fashion capitals. Wear a bold necklace or a bright color. The idea is to feel good about yourself and make a lasting impression. To be honest, I’ve only worn make-up once at my vow renewal ceremony in the United States. I don’t even know how to put it on. Someone else did it for me, and I’m pretty unrecognizable in the pictures. Indeed, I’ve broken all the rules of bella figura; I’ve worn sweatpants to the supermarket in Ischia, regularly sport plastic flip-flops in the streets of Italy, and gone a few days without brushing my hair while there. Still, my husband was blind to it because I knew I was a good catch for the rest of the package. What I’m trying to tell you is to be you and be happy about it.
3. Flaunt your dignity.
Of course, Italian men want women to flirt with them. It’s part of their DNA, and it’s how they know you’re interested. Recognize the difference between flirting – with a coy smile or a play on words – as opposed to popping the buttons of your blouse and falling all over the guy. While some Italian men will go home from the nightclub with a drunk girl throwing herself at him (this happens the world over and many women do the same with a drunk guy), they are looking for a woman who is measured and dignified for the long term. The half naked girl who can’t walk in a straight line might have some fun with the guy in the backseat of his car (with all those guys living with mamma and papa in Italy, this is where sex often happens), she is never going home to meet mamma. Respect yourself and your body. If he doesn’t respect that, then he’s no good – Italian or not. The good ones will notice your seriousness and respectability, and they will admire your character.
4. Be one with the famiglia.
Most Italian men, especially in the south, spend a lot of time with mamma and their families. They are looking for women who want to do the same. Trust me, this may be the toughest obstacle to winning over an Italian man. Any indication that you’re not on board with mamma (and you’ll definitely have your doubts, which will be justified), and the whole relationship can be torn a part. As much as you can, be diplomatic. Never talk badly of his mother or others in the family. If you have a problem with them, then calmly and rationally state your concerns, ask him what he thinks, and discuss the ways you can resolve this without losing your temper. It’s a dance you’ll be performing for years to come if you’re in this for the long haul.
5. Work like a “ciuccio.”
Ciuccio, known to American Italians as chooch, is literally translated to jackass. In many instances, it refers to an idiot who does all the work for someone else. But Italians also usurp the pejorative word and use it to mean someone who works really hard. Italian women are the hardest working people on the planet. They do everything inside the home – down to washing floors daily, making five course meals daily, and even ironing underwear on a regular basis – and then go make some bacon outside the home. When we wed, my husband told the videographer that the reason he was marrying me was because I was a “ciuccio di fatica,” a jackass of work. It’s on videotape for eternity. And he’s right. I’m a first-born, American daughter of an immigrant. I clean the house, do my research, write stories, and now I’m mother to our son, which is a 24/7 job. If anything, I’m even more of a chooch now than when we married. I once was offended by his less-than-romantic reason for choosing me, but now I wear it as a badge of honor. I am a chooch, just how my mamma and papa raised me, thankyouverymuch. And it clearly helped me win over my husband, so I guess it counts for something even nowadays. If you do your thing, find personal success, and wear it proudly, the right Italian man will appreciate it.