Meet an Italian, Make a Friend

As a sequel to my post on Italian Warmth, here are a few more examples of why the culture is so appealing. These experiences are much less personal than the anecdotes I shared previously, but they show that the hospitality and amicability of Italians isn’t restricted to their nearest and dearest.

 

The Kindness of Strangers

I was purchasing a museum ticket when the counter agent insisted I was much younger than I was. I corrected him. He disagreed. I corrected him. He wouldn’t give up. I conceded…and consequently garnered a discounted ticket.

At Marco’s birthday dinner in Rome where most of the party were locals, we had a few guests from Colorado. Because they were the only ones without transportation, one of the locals offered to drive them to Trastevere for drinks, and then home, despite having just met them that night.

At a fraschetta, a server had raised the room in a rousing, drunken chorus. As my party was out of wine, the couple beside us shared theirs. And when the party on the other side of us did too, everyone was singing and laughing with each other as though they hadn’t all just met.

Maria and I were in Pompei one year, sitting down to dinner. Next thing we knew, the restaurant proprietor (whom we’d never met before) was taking us to Salerno to go clubbing that same night.

Once again, Maria and I were dining at a fattoria in Positano. Within minutes of entering the establishment, I was getting a tour of the kitchen, meeting the family (it’s a family-run operation), and bantering with the proprietor like we were old friends. After failing to consume the vast amount of food placed before us, we were chauffeured back to our bed and breakfast by the very same proprietor.

I was having lunch one day when my companions stepped away for coffee (literally 10 feet away). A pair of locals sat beside me, started a conversation, and next thing you know, they’re inviting me to coffee.

 

The Men

That stereotype about Italian men? It’s pretty close to accurate. Your Italian girlfriends will tell you it’s all true and all the men are constantly trying to hit on you. Considering I’ve been asked to coffee while at the airport (obviously waiting for somebody), while sitting down to dinner, and just walking down the street, I can’t deny it. Beyond that, however, they’re a bunch of softies. They bring you little presents for no reason. They aren’t afraid to express emotions. They’re a lot more traditional in that they insist on porting even the lightest shopping bags, and paying for everything down to the 1-euro espresso even though they’ve just treated you to a 6-course meal. They’re protective, from the crowded metro, to Roma Termini, to crossing the street in a quiet little town. They’re chivalrous: they hold your purse; they hang your curtains; they agree to where/what you want to go/eat/see/do. They bravely play Dance Central with you – in front of their friends.

 

Unexpected Friendships

Massimo, whom I –once– had an English practice session with, escorted us around his native Naples, covering all museum entrances and various forms of sustenance. Regardless of how that might sound out of context, rest assured it wasn’t because of any romantic interest.

Despite my insistent independence, Alessio came to pick me up and drop me off to the train station early one morning (rest assured this wasn’t because of any romantic interest either) because my luggage would be “heavy.” How heavy? It was a little carry-on for a few days out of town.

One of Sarah’s friends –who I’d barely exchanged 10 sentences with in the span of two months– came by the house to wish me farewell before I flew home.

Because of the high gas prices, car dashboards were almost red with the “empty” gas tank light. Yet, friends ventured near and far all weekend, every weekend, to tour me around.

Antontello and Chiara are a couple who, after having met me just once prior, took me to a chocolate fair I really, really wanted to see. If I attended one of Antonello’s gigs, he often dedicated English songs to me as though we’d always been friends.

 

It’s pretty easy to meet an Italian and make a new friend; try it sometime. And if you already agree with me, share your stories with the rest of us!