The idea of dating an Italian girl might seem exciting to many foreign men. But it is not without its pitfalls, risks, and countless opportunities for public embarrassment.
Still, the payoff may be worth it, as Italian girls are known to be passionate, sweet (when they’re in the mood to be), and of course, very beautiful.
So if you want to know how to impress Italian girl, there are a few cultural differences to keep in mind to minimize the potential for “fare una brutta figura,” making a bad impression
Dating Italian Women
It is extremely tricky to discern something as unwritten and subtle as courtship protocols in another country. Perhaps even more so in Italy where the art of the pursuit is considered paramount to the dating ritual. Yes, it is a “game” in every sense, and if you don’t know how to play, obviously you will lose.
However, while knowing the rules of this game is important, that doesn’t mean that you have to follow them to a tee. Indeed, making up your own rules might even be the best strategy for foreign men in Italy.
With that said, below you’ll find some the top tips to help you compete. This list is by no means exhaustive, and at times there are points that seem contradictory. But again, cultures are complex, and the best knowledge comes with experience. But with these top 20 tips you’ll be off to a great start!
Italian girls expect to be pursued.
If you’re trying to play it cool, you may come off as being lazy and not interested (or interesting) enough to be worth their attention. While “love bombing” might border on stalking in some countries, in Italy, it’s a requirement if you want to be taken seriously.
It doesn’t have to be expensive gifts or acts of physical risk. But you do need to exaggerate your desire for the Italian girl in question, or she’ll simply ignore you in favor of guys with more swagger. And if you find yourself wondering if you’re OVER exaggerating, I promise you it’s still not enough.
Bottom line: Italian women expect to be conquered, so be prepared to put the hours in and dedicate yourself to some serious romance. So be persistent, stopping just short of being a stalker.
In Italy it’s polite for a man to open the door and walk through first with the woman behind you. In the past, a man would enter an establishment first to ensure it was safe for his lady, and it was not considered proper for a woman to walk into a place by herself. These days, a man walking through a door first is merely a gesture of respect and consideration.
Good looks are important.
But this requires a deeper explanation. It is NOT to suggest that your face must have that movie star quality, or you must possess the physique of a bodybuilder. Rather, your clothes must be well-matched and fit your shape properly. Your grooming should be impeccable, and your accessories should be of a quality brand.
On this last point, you should know that men in Italy often carry man-bags, and the girl will take notice of the brand and quality. So the delicate balance here is to have a good quality attaché, but not of better quality than her purse! Don’t show her up!
She’ll notice how you treat your mother.
This is another delicate one. While it’s expected that you’d treat your mother with all the respect and reverence that she deserves, you don’t want to go so far as to be labeled a “mammone.” (Mamma’s boy.)
One thing that drives an Italian woman crazy is when a man can’t (figuratively) separate himself from the umbilical cord. Your potential girlfriend is already thinking about how this will affect the future marriage, should it ever get that far. Tread lightly and find the right balance.
Speaking of her Italian family…
The family is sacred, remember that. Dad, brothers, sisters, and especially HER mom (and her mom’s cooking, of course) are beyond reproach. Don’t try to make jokes about them. And if you don’t like children for some reason, keep it to yourself at this point.
Remember that an Italian girl is always a “mother on the inside” so when she introduces you to her cousins, grandchildren, godchildren, etc., make sure that you open your eyes wide in amazement and don’t spare the pampering and compliments. So show off your best “oohs! and ahhs!” Make sure to smile, cry, whatever you have to do, and you’ll be in their good graces.
Regarding other men in her life…
We’re talking about men in her family. When you date an Italian woman, you’ll no doubt feel (if not directly see) the lurking presence of overprotective fathers, grandfathers, brothers, and uncles.
Make sure to show some respect without laying it on too thick. Italian fathers often proclaim that their daughters are not able to date until they are in their thirties. Although this might seem like a joke, there is a whiff of seriousness to it. Or at least you’ll sense that the father would prefer it that way. Don’t try to be his “buddy.” Instead, treat him more like your boss. Which, in a way, he sort of is…
Italian girls gossip.
Maybe “gossip” isn’t the right word, but they’ll certainly share some intimate details with their sisters and female cousins. And somehow, sooner or later, her mother, aunts, and grandmother will also be aware of whatever is going on with the boy in question. This will explain the “tsk-tsk” looks that will eventually be aimed squarely at you.
Learn to speak Italian.
It should go without saying. Even if an Italian girl speaks good English, sooner or later she will inevitably unleash an idiomatic expression that only a native Italian can understand. Often these have a unique meaning in the Italian cultural landscape, and therefore essential to “communicating” rather than just chatting. If you are unable to grasp the subtle nuances, you’ll be lost. In more ways than one.
Minimize the small talk.
Steer towards deeper conversations. This can be difficult if there’s a big language gap, but in general Italians are very well-rounded in the arts, culture, history, literature, politics, and such, and they appreciate talking about these things rather than how much money your company earned in the last fiscal quarter. (Yawn…)
And of course, don’t make the conversation all about you. Be curious and attentive to her interests.
Watch the stereotyping.
Speaking of conversation, be careful about discussing Italians or Italian culture in any ways that might be too stereotypical. This is a certain path to quick dismissal. Just don’t do it. You can apply this to any social situation, really, not just dating Italian women.
Oh, this is a tough one, and really a no-win situation for any man. However, in this case, an American man dating an Italian girl might have a slight advantage because you can (legitimately) claim ignorance.
On the one hand, Italy is an overwhelmingly patriarchal society, especially in the more traditional, Catholic south of the country. But on the other hand, women are more “revered” than men, especially their mother, of course, who serves as the family’s stand-in for Mother Mary herself, and should be treated with equal respect.
Still, a more defined division of gender roles persists in Italy than in the US or UK. Men from other cultures might find it bewildering that their Italian girlfriend demands he “take care” of her. Whereas women might view their Italian boyfriend’s desire to “protect his woman” a bit too chauvinistic.
Dating “alla romana”
In Rome, or in the North of Italy, dates are often “Dutch Treat,” or what is called “alla romana,” meaning each pays for whatever they order.
In the South of Italy the guy will pay for his date, so gentlemen should make sure they bring enough money to cover the bill in case she doesn’t offer to split it. It is absolutely not conceivable that a girl in Naples would take out her wallet. It is taken for granted that the man will pay.
Italian Females are emotional.
It’s a stereotype? Well, yes, because it’s true in most cases. To be fair, it’s a cultural norm more than a personality trait. Women are expected to be emotional, and if they acted more “rational,” the family members would worry about her, maybe assume that she might be depressed.
They are not shy about telling you off if your actions fall short of their expectations. At the same, if they have a sudden wave of romantic passion, you’ll certainly know about that, too!
The best advice is to expect to fight. And expect to lose.
Italian women do NOT forget. Anything.
Put another way, they hold grudges from the past, and aren’t afraid to bring them up when they feel they might be losing an argument in the present time.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much that you can do about this except take your medicine.
Italian girls love (Italian) food.
This seems obvious, but there’s a bit more than initially meets the eye.
First of all, they are NOT gluttonous. In fact, gluttony is considered disrespectful to the food. You can woof down a McDonald’s hamburger in ten seconds, if you’re inclined, but you don’t shovel mamma’s lasagna into your mouth while standing in front of the TV watching soccer.
So they “love” food, but perhaps it’s more accurate to say that they appreciate food.
And also, the term “Italian food” has no meaning inside of Italy. Instead, Italians talk about regional cuisine, or more precisely, their family’s own recipes.
Therefore you wouldn’t likely see a girl from Napoli eating fegato al veneziano. And you’d certainly never see her eat Tex-Mex, or Asian-Cuban fusion. Nope. Mamma’s pasta is the best food on the planet, so why eat anything else?
First date? How about an aperitivo at a quaint bar?
First dates have enough pressure, so keep the venue light and easy. Aperitivo is perfect; some light bites, and one drink to lubricate the conversations.
Remember, Italians don’t “get drunk,” so limit yourself to one, or two maximum. It’s considered boorish and uncouth to be a “drinker” in the Anglo-American-Australian sense of the term. In short, if you get too tipsy it is guaranteed to be both your first and last date with the ragazza in question.
Strike while the iron is hot
The classic mistake that many make is waiting to ask a girl out until it’s too late.
Those who stall, do not take risks, and wait for the “perfect moment” … sooner or later realizes that this “perfect moment” has passed, and now she only sees him as a friend.
The truth is this: girls don’t wait around forever. They have options (more than you, anyway), and the competition for their affections is fierce. This means that if you wait too long, you lose the opportunity forever.
They are never on time.
To be fair, Italian men generally aren’t the most punctual either. Again, it’s a cultural thing, and please don’t embarrass yourself by trying to change them. Certainly, it will only inspire them to be even MORE late the next time. Just go with it.
Oh, but there’s one exception to this rule when all Italians are as punctual as a Swiss watchmaker. When mamma says, “a tavola!” everyone is in their assigned seat within ten seconds!
They are spontaneous and live in the moment? Or not…
There’s this myth about Mediterranean people in general “living in the moment,” very carefree and unbothered by the drudgeries of the world that the rest of us have to endure.
This is true, but only on the surface. The full truth is that Italians are worriers, especially the women. They fret over everything; their looks, their families, their jobs, their food. But at the same time, there’s a certain resignation that implores them to say, “Everything is impossible, so let’s just have a good dinner and a nice bottle of wine with family and friends.” And with that, the stereotype is perpetuated.
Dating an Italian Girl in Summary
One last piece of advice for foreign men looking to woo those belle italiane is don’t try too hard to adapt. Yes, make certain concessions to let her know that you’re not ignorant to her cultural norms. But remember, if she’s interested enough in you to go out on a date, then she’s also aware of your “foreignness” and will give you a bit of latitude.
How much? Well, that depends on the girl. Your straniero status might be the very thing that has attracted her to you, in which case, play it up! Or it might be the one thing about you that she’s having a hard time with, so try to find some middle ground.
Suffice to say, she’s well aware that you’re not Italian and will judge you accordingly, for better or worse.
Dating an Italian girl is NEVER boring, that’s for sure. Their reputations as “emotional but sweet” is mostly earned. Yes, they can be a bit “high-maintenance,” but they’ll make it worth your while.
So if you’re a foreigner guy in Italy, whether as a relocated expat or even a tourist, don’t be shy give it a try. But don’t say that you weren’t warned!