Romance is a state of being. You can’t fake it or manufacture it, even though you probably try. Islands breed romance by their very existence. Perhaps, none sets the mood better than Ischia, a small island off the coast of Naples in Italy. Just to look all around you is to fall in love.
First, the Island Seduces You
Known as l’isola verde or the green island, Ischia boasts fragrant flowers and green hills. The pastel colored houses serve as polka dots on the landscape. Sea and sand are equally intoxicating. Castello Aragonese harkens royalty and the elegance of its former dwellers. Cobblestone streets and rustic cantine (wine cellars) promise Old World sensibilities. Sundays gathered with family feasting on coniglio Ischitano (traditional rabbit dish of the island) bring you simplicity. The heat has everyone in various states of undress.
Next, a Native Inspires Romance
Then, at some point, you will feel the intense eyes of a native on you. He will look at you as though he can see your inside thoughts. You will become at once intrigued and uncomfortable, more than ever before. As if only the two of you exist in the world, you’ll have a conversation with your eyes alone. He’ll touch the small of your back, and you’ll be charged by the electricity. He’ll guide you outside to see the view. That’s when you lose all control. Any power you had before vanishes. You are unable to even whisper. Instead, you quiver.
No Turning Back
In front of you is the sun. As it sets, it looks as though it belongs only to Ischia and you only to it. That setting sun bursts with soft, yet electric colors that splash across the sky. The gentle breeze rises as if from the waves and caresses your cheek. You close your eyes. The island passionately kisses you and you succumb. Those kisses become your drug, and you keep coming back for more. But whatever you do, don’t look directly into the sun. Or you may lose yourself forever.
Italian wedding vows are classic. If you marry in the Catholic Church in Italy – like I did nearly 9 years ago – then you say the same stuff. You just say it in Italian instead of English or whatever your native language. But now that I’m a veteran Italian wife, I decided the vows should be longer and more specific. Most of all, they should be honest. Don’t let these newlyweds go into marriage thinking it’s always going to be cannoliand prosecco.
What Italians Should Promise to Their Beloved
I,___, take you,____, for my lawful wife/husband, to have and to hold…But first we must make a few promises. Say them out loud, get them in writing, and never risk divorce.
The Mother-in-Law Guarantee in Italian Wedding Vows
I promise to remain your husband/wife despite your mom’s constant criticism of my
I also promise to stay with you no matter how many times your mom tries to have me taken out. No matter how many times. (It bears repeating.)
I promise to have you, hold you, and feed you prosciutto on a regular basis. We will always choose fresh mozzarella over that cheese that passes for mozzarella. It’s the real Reggiano-Parmigiano in our house. May the tomatoes always be fresh, and the lemons ever growing on our tree of life. By the power vested in Nonna, we will never ever eat sauce from a can or jar. Never. We must linger over our meal at least once a week. Sundays will be for pasta forever. Every now and then, we’ll get spicy in the kitchen, too. And there’s always room for gelato.
Our love will always come before my job. The kids will come before everything else for a little while, but you get it. I will never come between you and your family. You will do the same for me. (Again, this is how it will be no matter what crazy our mothers display. The crazy is pretty much guaranteed, and I accept that.)
How to Argue Like an Italian Couple
We recognize our passion might be overkill in an argument. So, we promise to take a time out from fighting when the hand gestures start getting nasty and the normally loud voice gets even louder. Certainly, we will compromise and apologize to each other first. But we also promise to apologize to our neighbors for whatever they end up hearing. Let’s face it, they’re gonna hear us. Of course, no one makes up like an Italian. And we promise to keep making up like that for the rest of our days. We can apologize to the neighbors for that noise, too.
As we grow old and get fat together (after the foodie promises that’s a given), I will still find you sexy. I will continue to compliment you. Your mind will always attract me. Of course, I will grab your ass every chance I get. Yes, oh, yes, we will always have sex, and I’ll be a generous lover. This I promise you from now until death do we part.
Mob marriage has been a subject of analysis for years now. At first, viewers might not have noticed love as a subplot in Gomorrah. But episode 9 throws it in your face. Anyone who thought this was going to be about the other deadly sin, lust, should think again. Once you see the storyline in episode 9, you realize that this conversation about love and marriage has been going on all along.
A Look Back, A Look Forward
What has been fascinating to me is that the Sopranos showed how most of the mobsters had a wife and a girlfriend. People are always assuming Europeans and particularly Italians have affairs. But none of the mob bosses in Gomorrah are cheating on spouses or longtime girlfriends. I’m not sure if that’s the reality in the real-life Camorra. But that’s the depiction.
Our first encounter with mob marriage is Don Pietro and his wife Imma. They are clearly in love. She wholeheartedly supports her husband’s criminal lifestyle. She takes over when he goes to jail. She does everything to turn their son Gennaro into a hardened criminal. Then, she makes the ultimate sacrifice. She gives her life to the cause. She knows full well Ciro is going to have her killed. She lets it happen to protect her son and support her husband. When Don Pietro breaks out of jail, we see him visit her gravesite. He is moved. And he wants their son to have Ciro eliminated as revenge. There’s a rift between them when Gennaro refuses.
Gennaro and His Baby Mamma
Gennaro and his girlfriend, with whom he lives, seem to be mirroring Imma and Don Pietro. She too is a child of a mob boss, but they are in Rome. Her father approves of Gennaro; he considers him the future of the family business, in fact. Now, Gennaro and this woman are expecting a baby. Gennaro seems committed to her and the baby.
She is from a different culture, though. This was brought up in an episode in which she throws him a birthday party in Rome. His friends from Naples come and rob someone there. It doesn’t go over well. But it depicted the distinct division between those from the south and those from further north, beginning with Rome.
The most profound moment was when Gennaro needed to go home to Naples. His girlfriend did not want him to go. He held her close and said:
You are my life. But never come between my family and me.
Ciro Kills Love
One of the most profoundly disturbing parts of season 2 was when Ciro killed his wife Debora. We learn in later episodes that they were childhood sweethearts. He cries as he is strangling her on the beach, what should have been a romantic setting. He is emotional when he cares for their mourning daughter. And he tells Gennaro to kill him because he murdered the mother of his child.
The point of this was to show that no one is immune in this sick world. Death is all around these people. And ambition in this business could literally kill you or your loved ones. It drove Ciro to murder his only love, after all.
Marinela Sets the Record Straight on Love
Early in season 2 we get to know Marinela. She is female mob boss Scianel’s daughter-in-law. Her husband, Scianel’s son Lelluccio, is in jail. While he’s away Marinela is her mother-in-law’s slave. The relationship between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law in southern Italy has long been an issue. Men live at home for far longer than they do in the United States. Their mothers can be overbearing. They never think young women are good enough for their sons. They also always believe the women have ulterior motives. Some of this goes on in every culture. But it’s exaggerated because many extended families live together in southern Italy.
Often, MILs mistreat their daughter-in-law. They might slight them. They criticize their housework and cooking. They might suggest they are unattractive or don’t dress well. Well, Scianel takes this abuse to a whole new level. She literally keeps her daughter-in-law under lock and key. She also “teaches” her how to cook. She tells her to be more like Patrizia, Marinela’s friend who no one knows is Don Pietro’s informant. Those are little snubs. She is also threatening and makes Marinela serve her constantly. She rarely leaves her alone.
A Passionate Affair
Marinela only really gets to see one other person on a regular basis. Mario, Scianel’s driver, is also with them often. A few episodes ago, viewers saw Mario and Marinela making love in the backseat of the car. Scianel was off on one of her nefarious errands. They express their love for one another. End scene. Scianel doesn’t appear to suspect.
In episode 9, however, she catches on. She overhears Marinela on the phone with Mario and realizes her daughter-in-law is cheating. She starts to notice the way the two look at each other. Scianel purposely gets another driver to take her to see Ciro and tells Mario to take Marinela home. Then, she follows them and sees them making love in the car. Marinela tells Mario that it’s over because Lelluccio is getting out of jail. But it’s too late.
The Stench of Death Lingers
Scianel has Mario killed. She has the killer shoot him in the privates while Scianel looks on. She makes sure Marinela finds out. Lelluccio returns and is furious to learn about his cheating wife. He puts his hands on Marinela’s throat and threatens her. Meanwhile, Scianel and the others celebrate his return. Marinela tells him what seems to be true for everyone in this show:
You want to kill me? Kill me. Go ahead. I’m already dead.
In fact, she also tells him that making love to Mario was the only beautiful thing she did in her life. Lelluccio has sex with a stranger, whose legs viewers see as she gets dressed. He calls Marinela and tells her that sex with someone else wasn’t good. He wants to see her. Scianel wants to kill her. But Lelluccio tells her to mind her business.
Now that the prince is dead, everyone wants to take over the building where he was selling drugs. Scianel goes to Ciro and bids for her son. Ciro agrees Lelluccio will get the building. Trak and the “Alley kids” are angry. They beat up Lelluccio on the night he gets out of jail. The police stop them and take in Lelluccio for the night, which saves his life. It also enrages Scianel. She brutally murders Trak by having someone repeatedly dunk his head in a pool of his own blood and dirty water.
Marinela is trapped. Her mother-in-law wants her dead. Her husband wants her sex. She is in a cycle of abuse and sees no way of getting out. Patrizia is still working at the clothing store, where Scianel shops. She and Marinela remain friends. Patrizia sees an opportunity to get Marinela out of this life and help Don Pietro. He is still trying to make those in Ciro’s alliance turn against one another. So far, it’s working.
So, Patrizia tells Marinela to call this phone number to gain her freedom. Marinela eats dinner with Scianel. Scianel tells her,
Women can’t have freedom unless they never marry…Once I got used to the beating, I gave in. I became a good wife and a good mother.
Then, Lelluccio calls his mother. He tells her he is coming over. He wants to see Marinela. That’s when Marinela calls the number Patrizia slipped her. The men tell Marinela to bring Lelluccio downstairs. Just as she is taking him out for a walk, she says she forgot her purse and to meet her downstairs. She takes two steps and they hear gunshots. She runs down and sees someone else is dead. She flees for her own life. Scianel tells her son they have to lay low until they figure out what this “disgusting whore” is up to. Marinela walks into the police station.
The End Is the Beginning
The end of episode 9 brings viewers back to the start of the series. Back then, Ciro and Gennaro were not at war. Ciro was Gennaro’s mentor. They seemed to genuinely care for one another. Or at least as much as anyone in the mob could care for anyone else. Ciro shows up at the airport where Gennaro is arriving to see his family – the girlfriend and her father. Ciro tells Gennaro that he knows about his deal with the prince, who is now dead. He also reminds him that they were once friends. He says, “Together, we could have turned this world upside down.” He points out that if they get Gennaro’s father out of their way, they still can. He asks Gennaro to think about it. I think we’ll all be thinking about it until the next episode.
I should not be amazed by the number of e-mails I receive from women interested in dating an Italian man, a result of an article I wrote about their charms more than a decade ago now. Most of the Italian men I know live up to the reputation of the Latin lover, which has its pros (more passion and romance than you could ever imagine) and cons (ick, the jealousy), but is absolutely alluring. Since so many women contact me for advice on how to date an Italian man and many of them are not Italian themselves, so have no idea what they are in for, I recently wrote a story about “How to Date in Italy” for the Our Paesani column on ItaliansRus.
With that in mind, I want to encourage people with an interest in an Italian man to give it a whirl. It might not work out because of some of those cons I brought up before, but you never know. And it’s always better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. Anyway, there are three very good reasons to date (and perhaps marry) an Italian man (as if you needed a reason):
3. They’ll feed you better than anyone you’ve ever met, and they’re not afraid of women having some meat on their bones. In fact, they rejoice when a woman cleans her plate and appreciates a good meal. (They like cooking with her, too.)
2. They’re romantic. The idea of the principe azzurro (Italy’s description for Prince Charming, which literally means blue prince) is alive and well. Italian men have a way about them that makes the object of their affection feel like she’s the sexiest woman alive. Forget the roses and chocolates. Most of the time a wink and a smile is enough to woo you.
1. They’re super sexy. No further explanation necessary.
The summer heat always brings out the Latin lover in us all. So, it’s the perfect time for the release of my latest Our Paesani column on ItaliansRus.com. This one is about the facts of dating in Italy. Before you book a ticket to the Boot in the hopes of meeting Mr. Right, get your facts straight about dating customs and real Italian men. Trust me, there’s more to them than those firm bodies and bedroom eyes. As my zio tells my single sister, “Don’t trust the wooden nickel.” Ok, so I don’t really know what that means, but I know that you should be cautious about trusting Italian men, who I’m assuming are like wooden nickels. Good guess, right?
Wherever you go in Italy, especially in the southern part of the country, you’ll find that Italians have opinions on just about everything. And they’re almost never afraid to share those opinions. I bet you have a little Italian in you, too. That’s why I’d like to invite you to share your thoughts, ideas, suggestions, and opinions on the pages of the Newlyweds site that I maintain for About.com. Below are just a few places, where you can pipe up about a topic related to married life (and you don’t have to be married to participate).
Just click on the underlined words below and follow the instructions on the new page.
Birthday Ideas – Offer suggestions on how to the birthday of your husband, wife, or significant other special.
Halloween Costumes for Couples – Add to the list of ideas on Halloween costumes for couples. The first person to make a suggestion can use the horse’s ass and head idea. I’ll approve it – but I get to be the head when we put on the costume. Ha!
Should People Wait for Marriage to Have Sex? – Ever since I wrote a blog about first-time sex on your wedding night, hundreds of people have been weighing in with comments about having sex for the first time. That leads me to believe that this question will get a lot of people talking. Don’t be left out of the conversation. Pipe up. All opinions are welcome.