What is love? Here are three accounts of dating from a foreigner’s perspective in Florence.
Someone once told me love is like a fireplace: warm, cozy, full of light, bringing people together. A fire within a fireplace is safe. The ambiance of the fire naturally lowers our blood pressure and engages all five senses. Therefore, no one has to perform. The result is that we are completely ourselves. Personally, I thought love was like blowing softly on a candle, a hushed prayer between my lips. Watching the candle flicker and whirl, burning slowly but consistently, dribbling wax along the way. When it came to dating in Italy, I was (and still am) completely clueless. In my first two weeks, I’d met someone. A tall, dark, handsome stranger who took me to Fiesole, on a church wander, and then dinner with a grand view of Florence, sparkling in all her glory. I was momentarily swept off my feet. The word amore was tossed around. It turns out that love was neither a candle, nor a fireplace, but I can conclude that it is of a fiery nature.
I’d never left the nest, never lived without my parents, but it was always my dream to move abroad. After a two-year relationship, another two years of Covid and career-driven celibacy, I was ready to move to Italy, hungry to be independent and see the world. My heart was open to the sky. After meeting a couple of men in Florence, I felt like they were all the same. They were always asking “Di dove sei?”, but never my name or what I liked to do, never a drop of curiosity toward my actual persona.
Coming home from the discoteca, kebabs in hand, one man jumped out of a dark alleyway, grabbed me, did a body thrust, sex-pulsing me. My friend dropped her kebab and started slapping him. After that, I started walking around with pepper spray. I was traumatized.
“Man, when am I ever going to get laid?” I thought.
Then I wished on the boar statue. “Come on,” I said aloud, while rubbing its snout. “Just send me someone decent, someone nice, someone kind. Universe, PLEASE do your thing.” I felt the Universe speak back: I’m gonna give you what you want, but you gotta be a little ballsy with it. That night, my mouth was agape: I saw the cutest guy in all of Florence. First, his piercing blue eyes while taking my order and, later, his face as he took his mask off outside. I thought, Why wait for him to ask me out? What if I give him my number? “Questo è per te,” I said as I slid a bus ticket with my name and number scribbled on it across the counter.
It felt like a movie. He took me to a park with my favorite bottle of wine. We talked about our favorite bodies of water, the fourth dimension and what might happen when we die. I’ve always been the kind of girl that is either all-in or completely disinterested. He captured all of me. Two months later, after plenty of sunset Vespa rides, dinners, an overnight vacation and meeting all of my friends, he ghosted me. The thing is, I thought things were going so well, and then I never heard from him again.
I studied abroad in Florence during 2018. Within the first few weeks, I went to a club called Babylon and started dating one of the club’s promoters. It took me months before finding out he was dating another girl, who sat a mere two tables away from me in class. Despite the awkward first romantic encounter, I was swept away by Florence. I couldn’t imagine moving back to the hustle and bustle of New York City when life moved so slowly here, dripping like a honeycomb in comparison to a frenzy of bees. By the end of the summer, I met Tommaso. He joined my friend group at a bar, instantly sitting by my side. We talked all night, with my friend occasionally butting in, thinking I needed saving from our private one-on-one. Little did she know that I was completely infatuated. He’d brazened his way into my friend group, but rather than coming off as aggressive, gave the impression of being shy, even a little nerdy. The next day, he texted me with anticipation: “Just three more hours of work… Just one more ‘til I see you,” he wrote. He’d asked to go on a date, but instead I invited him to join my friends at a wine bar called Cabiria. It was a goodbye toast before we headed off on summer holiday. He appeared and all of my friends slinkily disappeared. One thing led to another.
I left for a total of three weeks and we talked every day. When I moved back to NYC, he came to visit, staying in my New York apartment for three weeks. After graduating, Covid-19 took our world under its oppressive hazy blue mist. While the world went under, I was stuck in Manhattan, longing to find my way back to Tommaso and back to Italy.
Now we’ve been dating for three years. Far past the struggles of Google Translate, I speak Italian fluently and work part-time while finishing my master’s. My boyfriend is a music teacher and invests himself in multiple hobbies. I can’t say when I jumped over the pond from New York City to Florence, it happened gradually, accidentally even, but I can’t ever see myself going back.