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  • How to Date in Italy
    Find out how a typical date usually goes in the Boot
    Our Paesani

    by Francesca Di Meglio

    Love and courtship in Italy fascinates people. As home to the original Latin lover (Giacomo Casanova), the country has a reputation for bringing romance to another level. ItaliansRus, in fact, gets lots of questions about falling in love with Italians and dating them.

    I have some authority on the subject. My husband is a native Italian, and we dated for four years before we wed in 2008. We've been a couple for nearly a decade now, and much of our dating takes place in Italy. Of course, I have observed the courtship of other native Italians, too.

    While it's true that love is held in high regard in the land of the lovers, dating is very similar to what you'd expect from other Western countries, including the United States. There are, however, a few noteworthy differences. Here's what you need to know about dating in Italy:

    The man pays…all the time.
    Going Dutch does not exist in Italy, at least not in the south. Heaven forbid a woman tries to pay. Even if women are hanging out with men, who are just friends or relatives, they cannot offer to pony up their share or cover the group. Everyone, including the other patrons and the waiter, will judge your party if you do. And the man – or men – who are with you will be offended. It's their job to pay and that's final.

    This was big news to me, and it took some getting used to. Recently, my American cousin was visiting me in Italy with his family. We went into a little shop to pick up water while we were site seeing, and I tried to pay for our snacks, and the cashier wouldn't take my money. He said, “No, women don't pay if a man is around.” My cousin already had the cash in his hand, ready to pay, but I didn't want him to do it because he was my guest. But I had no choice.

    You need to eat…a lot.
    Lots of the American girls I know will order a salad on a date and be done. Or they'll get an entrée and eat half of it. That won't fly in Italy. Food is seen as one of life's joys in Italy, and everyone is expected to partake. Men in southern Italy, who want to impress a woman, will take her out to dinner (or even lunch) and order antipasto, primo piatto (usually, a pasta, rice, or soup dish), secondo piatto (usually fish or a type of meat with sides), and dolce (dessert). You need to eat it all.

    Now, this was way too much food for me, even though I'm a good eater and a foodie. But I've gotten my husband to order either a primo or a secondo over the years, which is more reasonable. Every once in a while at family meals, I have to eat it all. It's a cross I have to bear (and don't mind bearing every now and then, especially when the food is as delicious as it is in an Italian home).

    The man will probably order.
    This one isn't a hard and fastened rule. But the men tend to order on your behalf. You can speak up about what you like and don't like though. And women who hate their date ordering for them can certainly let him know that this is one cultural difference that you won't tolerate. Say it nicely because he means no harm. I did and now, unless I defer to my husband (which I often do because he orders well and now knows my preferences), I order for myself. This is just how it's done around here, so don't be so hard on him.

    Be ready for a kiss good night.
    Some American men I know would never have gone in for a kiss on the first date or would have been hesitant unless I offered some sort of signal. The men in Italy are far more forward. Expect a kiss whether you are looking for one or not. And don't be surprised if his hands wander even on the first date, especially if you've known each other for a while beforehand. (Yes, the pun was intended with “before hand.”) Gently move his hands away from the inappropriate area and end the kiss if you're looking for an out. If not, well, you can use your own judgment. Wink. Wink.

    Di Meglio is the Newlyweds Expert for, and you can follow her life and work at the Italian Mamma Web site or on Twitter @ItalianMamma10.

    Article Published 8/25/2014


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