The Best Way to Learn Italian is to Date an Italian

The next person that tells me the best way to learn Italian is to get an Italian boyfriend, is gonna get smacked.

The first 40 times I heard this, I laughed it off, pretending each time that it was somehow funny or original.

Don’t get me wrong- Italian men are beautiful.  They wear beautiful clothes, they use beautiful words, they make you feel beautiful.

“Ciao, bella” is a phrase normally used to say goodbye to friends, or dropped by vendors trying to sell you something. But my favorite line so far has been from a man in cafe: “Sei troppo bella…” “You are too beautiful.”  I mean, how do you walk away from that??

But I am willing to bet you cold hard cash that on the first date, a would-be Italian beau will ask you “Do you cook?”

This usually gets an icy “Yes.”

And I’ll go double or nothing that they follow up with “What do you cook?”

That’s it. In my head, it’s over. There will be no more passeggiatas or pizzas. I’m done.

This is probably a perfectly innocent question, but I refuse to be judged based on my cooking abilities.  There is some cultural difference that makes this simple culinary inquiry sound like a loaded question to me.  And it happens every time.

EVERY TIME. This is not an exaggeration. Every freaking time.

So, I’ve developed the perfect answer:

“Eggs. I cook eggs. For breakfast.”

Then I wait for the thinly veiled look of horror to cross their face.

Breakfast in Italy is a cappuccino and cornetto (a small pastry).  It is a light meal, meant to tide you over until lunch.  You certainly do not eat “an American breakfast,” and you most certainly do not have eggs in the morning! Madonna!


With that answer, I’ve effectively severed ties for both of us.  A double-cheek kiss goodbye and we can go our separate ways, shaking our heads.

I’ll never learn Italian at this rate.

But all joking aside here is a real guide with tips on how to learn Italian.

16 thoughts on “The Best Way to Learn Italian is to Date an Italian

  1. Orsi says:

    I found your blog yesterday and reading it was real fun πŸ™‚ I’m a Hungarian girl and I lived in Rome for 2 months last year and loved it. Your stories make me remember all the things that charmed me or freaked me out about Italy and Italian people. And also make me wanna go back!!! I just wanna tell that I’ve been in the same situation so many times and that was really weird because those Italian guys wanted to know every detail sometimes even recipes of Hungarian dishes I can cook πŸ™‚

  2. Mike Seydell says:

    Is it also a stretch, to assume there are almost always ulterior motives with Italian men? Now to be fair, generally that’s the case with American men. I’ve always just been under the illusion, that Italian men are very forward with what they want. I believe you had a previous post about this particular topic.

    Perhaps, you can find a man of Latin descent? Apparently, Spanish and Italian are very similar languages.

    Good Luck with Your man Shopping!

  3. Nerys says:

    Don’t mind if I steal that one do you? I’m so sick of unwanted attention.

    I’ve learned Italian just fine without an Italian fidanzato, ok so maybe it hasn’t been as much fun, but still, I’ve managed…

  4. Khathy says: response to “do you cook?”
    you: “no, you’ll have to show me πŸ˜‰ ;)” <– yes, with the winks. πŸ˜€

  5. Bruno says:

    Hmm… saying that”you cook eggs “for breakfast” should know by now that an Italian guy could interpret that statement as “sleep over AND I’ll do breakfast” !

    Be careful, be VERY careful my friend!

  6. jann says:

    I think after they ask “Do you cook?” they would ask “Do you do the laundry?” and “Do you iron?” My married Sicilian friends complain endlessly about men here, saying they are expected to “mother” them. But you’re right–the guys ARE cute to look at!

  7. Christine says:

    Better than an Italian boyfriend anyday is to be adopted by an Italian family. You will be fed well and often and learn Italian at the same time. It worked for me. Where to find this family may be challenging, but I bet YOU could do it.

  8. Kat says:

    You are so right! What tends to annoy me is when you go out for coffee with someone, and they are first appalled, and then inform you as if they’re revealing a secret of the universe that people don’t order cappuccinos except at breakfast. Only foreigners have them in the afternoon. News flash, I am a foreigner. And cappuccinos are good all the time.
    Great blog!

    • Natalie says:

      YES! I agree! They are delicious all day. And I don’t buy the whole “no milk after meals” thing. It’s like 2 ounces of milk!

  9. contessa says:

    so simple sweetie ..
    next time anyone asks you if you cook ?
    smile , play dumb & say you can’t even boil water ..
    & it’s the women who always ask me ..
    never the men ..
    date a man who is rich enough to hire a private chef …heeheehee

  10. Paula Feldman says:

    From your mouth to God’s ears is the Yiddish expression which I grew up with. No, Italian men don’t eat eggs for breakfast. No, they will not eat ‘red soup’ as my very Italian hub told me the night I presented him with a wonderful(to me)plate of borscht. However, they do speak Italian, have a propensity, as you say, for making you feel beautiful(il machoism reigns supreme) and if you are very lucky will eventually give in to an omelete(how many t’s and l’s in omelete will show you how long I’ve been here) brunch. It took me around 20 years but mine had been the Chief Engineer on a cruise ship so he sort of knew it would happen eventually. No red soup yet though.

    For the language it just takes forgetting your american friends for about 6 months, speaking with the natives who constantly will want you to help them with their English and deciding that in order to live in a truly Italian world you gotta speak the spoken lang.

  11. mark gittins says:

    Italians talk about food like Brits talk about the weather: it’s something everyone (in Italy) is interested in and likes, so there are lots of opinions to be shared and agreed on – Italians on the whole don’t like to be confrontational in social situations (a German friend of mine used to grumble you couldn’t sit down with a few bottles of wine, get hammered and have a good old political argument with Italians !).
    I’ve lived and worked with Italians a long time (25 years!) and THE standard ice breaker is to talk about food, regional differences in the names of food, preparation etc., so a date doing the same thing is not trying to establish whether you’re suitably feminine, but probably just trying to make conversation.

  12. mark gittins says:

    The best way to learn Italian is move in with Italians ! I shared a flat with these fantastic people for a few years then found in the end I was spending all my time with people who spoke Italian.

  13. Jeff says:

    Ha. Having heard the same for years and having even tried it a few times I can tell you, it really isn’t the best way to learn. The reason people think it’s the best way is because they’re confusing “having a boyfriend” with “having an outlet to speak Italian with all the time”. Make Italian friends (and their friends who don’t speak English), ask people at supermarkets and shops for obnoxiously specific things (in Japan I once asked a clerk where I could find “a little needle for sewing 100-yen coin size buttons to a coat”, which sounds innocent enough in English but requires a bunch of convoluted grammar in Japanese), and above all don’t tolerate not knowing a word you overhear someone say in a conversation more than a few times. Simply interacting in Italian as much as possible is the key.

    Also your blog is fantastic! It makes me seriously miss life in Kyoto, and want to go to Rome someday.

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