Italy, in my humble opinion, is one of the most glorious countries in the world. Florence and its rich artistic history. The winding streets and hidden underground wonders of Naples. Cinque Terre and all its coloured, seaside glory. The iconic rolling hills and olive groves of Tuscany. Venice, a mystic floating playground. Stepping back in time in Sicily. Rome, just Rome.
Rome, a city with so much history it will make your eyes hurt. Photo: Lee Tobin.
My heart aches for travel just thinking about it.
Still, after my first one-week Italian adventure, I'd had enough.
As shameful as it is to admit and at the risk of sounding completely conceited, I was ready to return to dreary, mean London. The snobbish stares of my fellow tube passengers somehow seemed preferable to... well, the endless echo of ciao bella.
Here is your pizza... you are beautiful.
Blondie! Blondie! Why don't you come in, blondie?
I don't enjoy unwarranted attention in my day-to-day life and I find comfort in the anonymity of big, functional working cities like London.
Never will I date one of these unnecessarily vocal men, never! I ignorantly exclaimed to the world (or at least whispered to myself).
Until, of course, I fell in love with an Italian or, to be more precise, a Sicilian (the difference this makes, I will leave up to you). The perks of attaching oneself to a foreigner soon became clear. Don't let misguided tourist experiences fool you, Italy is pretty fabulous for more than just its spectacular scenery.
Double pizza-pasta-tiramisu date, anyone?
There are a multitude of reasons to consider dating a lad or lady of the Italian persuasion right now. Five of these include:
1) Food, Glorious Food
No one cooks quite like the fine folk of Italy and chances are your Italian beau (or gal) will know a thing or two about what is supposed to go down in the kitchen (unlike, for hypothetical instance, his Australian lady counterpart who considers unburnt toast to be a great culinary achievement). As Huffington Post US asserted earlier in the year, "clearly, Italians are just better at life than the rest of us".
Let me visually demonstrate this in what I like to call the Lee Eats Food in Sicily series:
Pizza the size of my head times two? Don't mind if I do!
Cannoli? More like God's ricotta-filled gift to earth.
Even when those Italianos do 'American' food, it's bloody brilliant. Thanks FUD Catania for this blissful burger experience.
Bottom line is - your Italian man/lady friend will 1) take you to places which serve excellent food 2) cook excellent food for you. With pride. Even when he/she 'throws' a few odd things together, it will somehow be exquisite. A few good months into my relationship and I would happily bathe in a sea of fresh cherry tomato, rocket, sea salt and extra virgin olive oil.
It all comes down to the way we think about what we shove in our gobs and, unlike us peasants in the UK, food is a way of life in Italian society. It is what brings friends and families together. The focus isn't on low cal or weight loss, it is about eating proper, wholesome and fresh ingredients prepared in the most masterful ways. As a result, Italians generally live longer than us. *Secretly chucks frozen Lean Cuisine meals in the garbage.*
You can also rest easy knowing there will never, ever be a shortage of olive oil, bread, Nutella (apparently they like the stuff?) or dairy products. Take, for example, these cheesy items I found in my boyfriend's fridge on an in-between shopping day. Allergy warning: contains large amounts of lactose.
There is simply nothing to eat in this house!
Just some of the cheese available in a typical Italian grocery store I visited in Catania. I don't know what it's all for, but I don't care!
2) Coffee is an Art Form (and Your Special Friend Will Happily Bring you Nespresso in Bed)
Un caffè, per favore!
A bad espresso in Italy? Don't be ridiculous! This caffeine-crazed crowd is the largest consumer of coffee in the world. The drink is taken so seriously that most baristas are aged over 45 resulting in a tiny cup of perfectly strained deliciousness every time.
It isn't always so easy to find a decent English cuppa but don't fret, chances are your Italian admirer will own some sort of fancy coffee-making device for this exact reason.
The boyfie's secret stash... you know, just in case nuclear warfare breaks out or George C gets tangled up in a sex scandal.
Handy fact: Next time you and your Italiano lover quarrel, cite the fact that Howard Schultz, the CEO at Starbucks, was inspired to create the chain after a trip to Milan. Thanks for nothing, Italy!
3) The Language Makes for Great Listening Material
I swear I'm going to learn it soon, I swear! In the meantime, I will happily sit back and listen in blissful ignorance. I don't know what the hell you're saying, but it sounds so beautiful!
On her website Project Happily Ever After, Alisa Bowman explains said fascination with the Italian language in a way I think most of us can relate to:
Sex is not just for the bedroom. Everything about Italy is sensual, including the language. To speak in Italian, you must do things with your tongue that, honestly, get me hot and bothered just writing about.
It is therefore not so surprising that, according to various London-based language teachers I've chatted to recently, a large proportion of city dwellers learning Italian are doing so on account of their native-speaking partners. We're certainly an academically-focused bunch.
Dante, I salute you.
4) Free Cultural Exchange
I have dated someone in my own line of work before (the media douche industry). It was boring. There was always that underlying element of competition. Basically, it sucked. As far as I am now concerned, the same goes for ethnicity. Why date your own, mind-dulling kind when there are far more exciting prospects out there? Experiencing a new culture*, visiting each others' radically different home towns, absorbing a different way of life. Of course this applies to any nationality (and I guess you can just visit the country instead of stealing a national), but Italy rules (and dating is fun), so it's a good place to start.
Why is my pasta black???
*Don't expect me to cook you a kangaroo burger though.
5) Affection is in the Italian Blood
You two will be such a cute and loved-up couple that everyone will want to murder you, especially in London.
Aperitivo? It would be rude not to!
And, on average, men (and ladies) of the Italian extraction are quite nice to look at too.