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The (Not) Dating Guide

One of your free time activities in Perugia may be dating. We’ve seen our share of relationships, some from uncomfortably close distances. Perugia is a pressure-cooker for dreams, lust, hustle and romance and we thought we should write a bit about it. We’ve gotten a lot of flak for this section (does it hit too close for comfort, we ask rhetorically?), so we have to say here that these are just our opinions, however soundly they rest on years of observation.

A few first things: realize that relationships formed in Perugia involving foreigners tend to be short-lasting. Most foreign students are here only a short time, from a month to maximum nine (unless they fall in love with that most beautiful and seductive siren, Perugia herself). Hence the romantic spectrum is slanted more heavily towards one-night stands and what Italians call “una storia” than to long-lasting bonds. Frankly, that’s not all bad, in our opinion: maybe everyone needs to have some experience with those brief but intense relationships. Andreas wisely observed that this section, originally entitled “The Dating Guide,” actually didn’t help him with dating. “It’s more the not-dating guide.” Right you are, Andreas –hence the new title.

In relationships between foreigners and Italians, it is much more likely that the foreigner will be una straniera and the Italian will be un italiano. We want to avoid generalizations about Italians, and about the Italian male, but a few general ideas might be handy. The Italians who inhabit Perugia know that lots of foreign women come to Italy to do things they might not normally do at home, to have adventures they can lock away in their memories but won’t be punished for socially. So some Italian men often have the idea that foreign women are easy to pick up and take home to bed.

This means that their approach may sometimes be a little more direct than romantic. Don’t expect to find a guy interested in romance at a disco. He may say he wants to show you la collezione di farfalle (his butterfly collection)-that means going home for a night of passion. But often an Italian man can be quite romantic and knows exactly what the foreign girl expects from him: he cooks for her, takes her to that little pub only he knows about, and escorts her on moonlit walks. We like these guys.

Things usually start, in any event, at a party or in a pub, or in language class (if it’s a foreigner-foreigner relationship). If you tell an Italian that you are fidanzata (that you have a boyfriend), the response could be the classic, non ti preoccupare, mica sono geloso! (don’t worry, it’s not like I’m jealous!) I don’t think I need to explain how a guy hits on a girl but at the end of the night, if the pair doesn’t leave together, usually a telephone number is exchanged. Ladies often take the guy’s number instead of giving theirs, a tactic that avoids possible unwanted attention.

So you’ve kissed, maybe even more. If it’s a one-night stand it will probably be obvious rather quickly. But even if the couple doesn’t become an official dating couple (like holding hands in public), there’s the old Italian fallback, la storia. This is sort of an amorphous relationship where the two people are more or less together but not officially, and perhaps not even completely monogamously. La storia is a relationship whose boundaries only the couple knows. It sounds like a cheap halfway house for love, but at the same time it’s sensible for people who know their fling isn’t going to last past his or her departure, or in the case that the foreigner has a significant other back at home. The problem is that la storia is like a radioactive element (when I told Alan about that new metaphor he said, “what, like its half-life is three days?”) in that it’s not stable. Sooner or later someone wants more-or less-and that’s when it isn’t so much fun anymore.

Whether it’s a storia or a love story, nights will be spent together (maybe even in candlelight), there will be secret rendezvous at panoramas, and flatmates will have to be avoided. How long it will go on or where it will end, we can’t say – will it be at the train station (teary-eyed?), or will you see each other again under another moon? Most couples who meet here are couples only here, but we certainly know Perugian loves that are alive and well far beyond the city limits. But even if you don’t have that person’s hand in yours years from now, we hope you’ll still have Perugia in your heart!


thomas davisthomas davis