Dating and Marriage in Italy: Eat and Love Well




Arianna Letizia, 21, smiled at me as she waited until I connected my audio to the zoom call. Initially, I thought she was 25 or 26 years old because of how mature she looked. The first thing I noticed about her was her sharp eyebrows and dark hair. She has black curly locks, just like mine. As we conversed, she used her hands to talk a lot, and her nails painted a bold red color. She spoke with confidence and inflection in her voice with a heavy accent when she spoke English. When I asked her to repeat what she said, she gladly did. Even though this was the first time I talked to Arianna, I felt comfortable discussing intimate topics, such as love.

Have you celebrated Valentine’s Day with a boyfriend? Do single Italians celebrate Saint Valentine?

In my specific case, I have a boyfriend. This was the first year that I spent Saint Valentine with somebody. We started dating on the 9th of May. This year, we were in the yellow zone. We went to a restaurant, and he bought me a flower bouquet that had different kinder chocolates placed within the flowers. Then, we went to a restaurant and ate lunch together. Last year when I was single, I hung out with friends. We ate pizza and watched a film together. Some people criticize those who have parents, but I think that feeling comes up because they are jealous.

What qualities would you want in your boyfriend? What about your husband?

I want him to be clever and extroverted. I like how my boyfriend is direct with me. For example, if I do something wrong, he will tell me directly. I appreciate it because it is sincere. I need my boyfriend to tell me the truth in whatever situation. When you marry him, it’s the same thing. “I have to truth him, and he has to truth me.”

Do you date with the intention of marrying?

I don’t know because I live in the present. I don’t want to think about the future too far ahead. I am introverted and shy. We are good together now, but I don’t know the future. We don’t talk about it because we want to live in the present.

Why is it called Saint Valentine? In America, we call it Valentine’s day!

I am not sure, but a lot of celebrations in Italy are in relation to saints. For example, Saint joseph’s day is Father’s Day. Italian people are more religious. However, the new generation is more “relaxed” about religion. We pray when we want to pray, and we only go to church during big feasts and holidays.

When do you want to get married? Have you ever thought about your wedding (where you want it, what dress you want to wear, what ring you want etc.)?

I’ve never really thought about it. When I see a beautiful dress, I would like to copy it for my wedding day. Like I said earlier (especially because of the Covid-19 situation) we don’t know if we will be there in 2 or 3 months. It is all so uncertain. I had a friend that suddenly died in a car crash. At 9 PM, I spoke with her, and she passed around 1 AM.

In American dating culture, “hooking-up, flings, one-night-stands” are very common. Is there something similar in Italian culture?

Yes! “Boys are more inclined to this behavior, but girls can do this too.” I don’t accept it. For example, when I start to talk with a person and feel a connection, I suffer when it breaks off suddenly. There’s been a lot of times when a boy just wants a one-night-stand. I know I feel comfortable with my boyfriend. We are opposite, but it attracts. In Italian we have a similar phrase, “Gli opposti si attraggono.”

When is the right time to marry?

I don’t know, but I think it is when you realize you have a job or career– when you have economic stability. My boyfriend is studying mechanical engineering, and he has to follow a long path. I am learning translation and interpretation. It is all uncertain right now, but I think the right time will be when I have stability with him or another person.

What is considered cheating here?

“Making a joke about a person.” It would be better to tell the truth. If my boyfriend cheats on me, I would prefer that he lets me know and then leave. “I will suffer, but the truth is better, and the truth is heavy, but you need to exit a situation like this.” It does not bother me when my boyfriend hangs out with other girl(s). If I know the girl and I know that they are friends, I don’t care about it. But if someone tells me that they saw my boyfriend with another girl, I wonder what he is doing. We have another phrase that says, “Se tiri troppo la corda si spezza.” Julie, use this when you get mad at someone.

Are your parents strict with who you meet and where?

They are strict because I live next to southern Italy and my parents are more conservative. They know I have a boyfriend. But he has never come to my house. The only time he came over was because my parents were out at dinner. It is a sign of respect for my parents that he does not come over. Also, I have no siblings, so they are pretty strict with me. They like my boyfriend because my parents are happy when they see me happy. I had an eating disorder about two years ago, but I overcame a dark period in my life thanks to my boyfriend. My parents saw that he was making me happy and that I was eating. “Eating is the best thing in life.”

What is love? Have you ever been in love? How did you know you were in love?

Love is what happened to me. I was living in a sad time–the lowest and most challenging time in my life. I was able to stop this eating disorder thanks to him, and in our relationship, we need to stick with each other and overcome bad moments. I think that I am in love with him. But he has to realize that I am not like other girls. His past experiences with girls make him not as affectionate as me. I show him a lot of love.

Talking to Arianna, I realized that we have many similarities. My boyfriend, Abe, is also determined to follow a long path to become a doctor. I was able to learn about dating and love habits in Italy. Even though this conversation was on zoom, Arianna opened herself up to me and was very genuine. At the end of our conversation, I asked her to show me a picture of her boyfriend. It didn’t take us long to find photos of our boyfriend because they were on our lock screens.