Falling in Love in Italy: What I Learned From Dating Six Italian Men

BRiYA Article Blog Post - Falling in Love in Italy: What I Learned From Dating Six Italian Men

I lived and loved in Italy for over two years while I was going to graduate school. It was a small town where everyone grew up together and knew each other. Everywhere I looked I was surrounded by the Tuscan beauty and accessibility to fresh fruits and vegetables. The rolling landscape was breathtaking with shades of green, shimmering with gold at sunset.

The rustic, weathered quality of the stone gave character and wisdom to the city walls. The streets that doubled as sidewalks were always filled with couples enjoying their youth lost in each other’s eyes and mouths. Families with toddlers conjugating verbs better than myself would cross the streets, gelato in hand, no matter the time of year or day.

That quaint Italian life that people dream of. That was my life.

But you don’t only care about hearing how amazing the food was or the beautiful architecture or the little idiosyncrasies of my small little town. What about the men, you ask. Alright, I’ll tell you, but only because you asked...

Get Ready

So grab a caffè lungo (large coffee) and a blanket and get comfortable as you continue reading. Feel free to put yourself in my shoes and picture the beautiful Italians holding you and kissing you. Their passion is worth experiencing at least once, if even virtually.

(Names have been changed to protect identity, which anyone familiar with Italian names knows that this was difficult since I had only eight names to choose from. Yes, that is hyperbole, but only slightly.)

I dated six Italian men while I lived in Italy. Each were unique in their own way and they each taught me something about myself or love.

The First

His name was Stefano. He was dark-skinned with soft, full lips and spoke English with an adorable accent (well, they all did).

I met him at a theater in the first few months I had arrived and immediately became infatuated. He reeked with confidence and a brooding quality. He shook my hand and I looked into his eyes with a hint of shyness. “I want him,” I thought quietly to myself. I finally had a reason to put makeup on again.

Later that night I learned he had a serious girlfriend, so I left him alone and resigned to pursuing a friendship. We were in each others’ circles with mutual friends and interests so we still would see each other and interact. I always kept the hope in the back of my heart that one day he might break up with his girlfriend...

And then it happened.

I don’t remember how I found out, but eventually I heard that him and his girlfriend broke up. My ears perked up like a child waiting for the ice cream truck. I tried to slowly fill in the details and make sure it was true. Since I was shy and still recovering from past trauma and heartbreak, I eased myself in slowly, all the while going crazy inside my head of a potential future together.

We did the millennial thing of texting back and forth for a while. He was sweet and charming and loved sending me selfies: him brushing his teeth, him exercising, him at work. We flirted and showed mutual interest in each other and talked about hanging out. I knew he had just broken up with his formerly live-in girlfriend and probably wasn’t ready for anything serious. But I was. (Well, I thought I was.)

My friends didn’t help the matter either. They were always suggesting to me how much they thought he liked me and alluding to something bigger than it was. I allowed their influence over me to cloud my own judgment. But nevertheless, it was a worthwhile ride and I enjoyed the attention.

Our first kiss was in the backstage of a theater. How appropriately romantic.

After texting for a while and still nothing happening, I decided I needed to make a move. One morning we were both at the theater and I knew the moment had come. I decided it was time to pull him aside and sneak attack him. “Vieni qui,” I muttered, shakily, as I walked away. He didn’t follow me.

I became instantly self-conscious. But realizing he most likely didn’t hear me, I went back and saw him sitting there and repeated with every last ounce of courage and bravery I had, “Vieni qui!” (Come here!) He did. I pulled him into me and kissed him on the lips. We held each other for a while and eventually broke apart.

“Grazie,” I thanked him as I skipped away to join my classmates and warm up before rehearsal. I couldn’t stop smiling the whole time, hoping he was doing the same. Backed by the support of my friends, we all went out that night. Stefano and I started to get comfortable with each other. That night was a test run; we spent it reading the other person and gauging the situation.

Eventually we went out on a real date. He took me to a popular pizzeria, where he quickly learned about my veganism and picky eating (two things unheard of to Italians). As the night wore on, he educated me about Italian pop culture, and American too. He had a wealth of knowledge in many different categories. And loved to talk. He filled most of the conversation, which was good because I was still shy around him. I wasn’t sure how to relate to him, his energy being so different than mine. But I stared and I listened and I thought,

“This could be the start of my Italian love story.”

I was a respectable girl and had him drop me off at home. Not ready to say goodbye, we sat and talked in the car for awhile. He told me about the famous gay Italian director who was notorious for going to the beach and picking up guys. We talked about classmates of mine and his opinions — and he had a lot of them.

He kept talking, but I wanted to feel closer to him. “Baci,” I said in the middle of his story, which was an attempt to actually say baciami (kiss me). Luckily, he understood. We kissed and I got out of his car and walked away smiling, hoping he was doing the same.

Exploring New Territory

He was the first Italian that I, um, explored. It had been a while since I had, um, explored anyone, so we explored several times. Like Magellan searching desperately for new land, we circumnavigated each other’s bodies for hours. I felt myself come to life and excitement filled me.

However, it became quickly apparent that this wasn’t my Italian love story. He was busy with work and still not ready to get into a relationship. My friends tried to keep my spirits high, but it felt just like excuses. I didn’t want to hang on to someone that didn’t feel the same. But I was also being told not to give up hope, and that advice sounded better than my negativity. He kept confirming through my doubts that he did, indeed, like me, but it was fleeting and felt shallow. (I later learned that he was sincere and that I was self-fulfilling my fears of being unwanted and unlovable by not receiving what he was telling me.)

Summertime

It was summertime in Italy, which anyone familiar with the culture knows, that’s the best time to be there and meet people. We were out of school for the summer and staying in town, so my friends and I would stay inside all day or pop out for a gelato or to find air conditioning (our homes did not have a/c). And best of all, when the sun went down we would dress up and go out. Literally. We would stand outside in the piazza and just talk to people. All night. Until four in the morning some nights. After the intense hours of the first year of graduate school, this was a nice break.

Still, my doubts about Stefano were permeating my thoughts daily. I kept hoping that I would run into him when we went out. I rarely saw him since he was often out of town, but my heart and nervous system were rewarded with an insurgence of adrenaline when I did.

The Soccer Match

That summer held one of the most important games of my life. Italy vs Germany in the European Cup. I’ve never cared much for watching soccer, but the city had put up a huge projector screen with fake grass in the middle of the piazza to watch the match. Everyone was going to be there. My friends and I went early to make sure we would have a spot on the astroturf. While waiting for the game to start, I saw my best guy friend and said hello. He was with someone I had never met before.

The Second

Luca.

He was tall and handsome, with a lot of facial hair. Tall and handsome is all good, but facial hair was never my thing. But Luca converted me. He spoke broken English and my Italian was never good enough to ever get broken, but his efforts of communication were gallant that night. He almost immediately found me on Facebook and decided soccer was boring and he’d rather go for a walk and talk. So the five of us went for a walk around town and up to the prato (lawn). I remember him being really funny, always trying to make jokes and poke fun at people.

He taught me useful Italian phrases which I managed to adapt and use humorously in the adorable way I was wont to do. (This was my go-to while I was learning Italian. I was full of self-consciousness about not being able to speak Italian. But I learned that if my Italian was laughable, I might as well capitalize on it and use it to make people laugh. For example, they loved when you said bad words with an American accent.)

The Smile

He had a beautiful smile that made my heart skip a beat. Perfect, white teeth–the result of a parent who’s a dentist. Every time he smiled his eyes would light up and joy would flicker across his face. Later on, all I wanted was to be the reason for his smile. After we started dating I made him a card that said, “I fall in love with you every time you smile.” I still involuntarily smile every time I picture his in my head. Oh, that smile. *Sigh*

I left that night hopeful that maybe I had a reason to get over Stefano. It wasn’t love at first sight because I would still think about Stefano and want to see him and hear from him. But things with Luca slowly started escalating. He would message me and we would hang out late at night in the piazza with everyone, and I quickly grew fond of him. Looking back, I realized our start was perfect because I wasn’t shy around him since I wasn’t trying to attract him. I felt more comfortable being myself because I was still hung up on someone else, which took the pressure off of trying to impress him. It was the whole “friends first” theory.

He showed a lot of interest in me and I thoroughly enjoyed being around him. I would still occasionally talk to Stefano, but Luca and I were having a lot of fun together and slowly growing closer. We were friends for a month and a half before we actually started dating. I eventually ended it with Stefano and told him that someone else had asked me out on a date and that I didn’t want to date two guys at once. Also, they were friends, so there wouldn’t have been a way to hide it, even if I wanted to. Small town, people.

After ending things with Stefano I was heartbroken and cried and wrote poetry about it and journaled like crazy. I grieved the idea of us together. Which eventually made space for Luca and I to start.

I fell for him the first time I watched him play.

He was a musician and one night two of my friends and I took the bus to his concert in Cortona to watch him perform. As I watched him from the balcony, playing, laughing, and singing, I felt this strong desire to be close to him. I wanted him to look only at me. I wanted to be his one and only groupie.

We went on our first date away from the city which I lived (thankfully) and had a threesome. Don’t get any dirty ideas, I’m talking about me, him, and Google Translate. We struggled to communicate with each other and technology helped bridge the gap. His English was about as good as my Italian (which was very bad). But we had fun and made each other laugh and were falling in love despite that fact.

He took me to his music studio that he built himself. I watched him listen to and learn a favorite Tim McGraw song of mine on the guitar. He had perfect pitch, which for a musician and singer myself, is a hugely attractive trait. As he taught me how to play the drums, I hit them so fiercely and loudly that I was certain I looked cute and adorable in my naivety. And then like a lady, I had him take me home. I wasn’t ready to sleep with him, especially since I wasn’t fully over that other guy.

Stefawho?

I quickly forgot about Stefano the more time I spent with Luca. The beginning of our short relationship was super sweet and at times head over heels romantic. He had an uncommon schedule, filled with concerts and traveling and late night rehearsals. He was always busy so I didn’t see him everyday, but when he was in town he would stop by my apartment just to say hi and give me a kiss before I went to sleep. Or he would meet me late after work in the piazza.

Then we would come home and I would fry up smiley face potatoes with tomatoes and olives while he sat and watched. The whole time judging my use of frozen food. We would stay up for hours talking and learning about each other and enjoying our new thruple status: me, him, Google. Although, I have a sneaking suspicion that Google was trying to cut me out of the picture because we had many interesting translation faux pas. (Let’s just say “stalker” doesn’t translate well.)

On the flip side, there were some hilarious translations that had us laughing nonstop. We had amazing chemistry. We were passionate, stubborn people, which allowed us to play and joke with each other. But we would often argue about differences of perspective and lifestyle. He would stare at me for long periods of time and ask me thoughtful questions. He truly wanted to get to know me and I felt special in his eyes.

We challenged each other and I often questioned our being together.

He taught me about the Italian temper and the subtle Italian jealousy. And I taught him about the American “you should be able to read my mind” and the not-so-subtle American passive aggressiveness. My insecurities flared wildly when he was out of town. Then when he finally came back but was busy, I would react volatile out of loneliness and low self-esteem. I still look back and see where I acted crazy and how I pushed him away.

All of my classmates had a crush on him, yes, even the heterosexual men. Two of the guys in my cohort relayed a story of conversing with him in a piazza. As Luca walked away they both said “swoon.” He was tall, unfairly handsome and suave with a little arrogance, all favorites of mine. But he was also kind and thoughtful and cared about me.

It was a difficult time in his life, between work and family. And I know that I didn’t make it any easier. I was selfish and I couldn’t see past my stories and my lens of victimhood I held to so tightly. But I pushed him away instead of supporting him and being there for him. I was too afraid that he would leave me. I didn’t feel completely connected to him due to our language barrier. And I also think we were both holding back.

He was my Italian love story, I just didn’t realize it at the time.

If only I could go back in time, I wonder what things would look like now. I would change the past and maybe we would still be together, madly in love. But I can’t change the past and what actually happened I regret to this day: I broke up with him. His life led him in a direction that I felt was away from me. He was always busy and I didn’t know what to do with that.

I know I don’t deserve all the blame, but what good is it to blame him. If I am to improve and be better in the future, I need to take accountability. I realize now that if he didn’t have time for me, I could have been more understanding. If he stopped coming by my house and giving me kisses just because he missed me, I could have come to him. I learned too late that I could have taken public transportation out to where he lived. When he didn’t text or call me, I could have texted or called him (yes, it’s true, I would wait for him and get offended when he didn’t call— something I’m not proud of).

Fear Destroyed My Relationship

My fear of being too needy overruled my good judgment and good relationship skills. I wanted to make sure he was as committed to the relationship as I was. Turns out, he was more committed. He was the one who always made more of an effort. And I took him for granted. He talked about our future and started making plans, but I was so worried about and fixated on the end. So inevitably, the end came.

We kept in touch on and off for a while, but he eventually moved on. I still think about him. Even writing about him now makes my heart hurt and brings tears to my eyes. But I am so proud of everything that he is doing and only want him to be happy. With whoever or doing whatever (even if it’s not with me), as long as he’s happy, I’m happy for him. Which is a beautiful feeling.

Eventually I tried to move on too.

The Third

Mario was more of a friend than a lover. His English was worse than Luca’s. We would argue a lot and tease each other about what the other was trying to say. We were introduced to each other by the same friend that introduced me to Luca.

Coming from the south of Italy, Mario loved to joke around and was rarely serious. I would often make fun of his accent and how he needed to learn to speak Italian. He was a good friend and I’m grateful that we shared time together. Maybe it was because he was from a different part of Italy, but he seemed different than the other Italians I had met. His perspective and attitude were at times confusing to me and my American political correctness.

I knew it was coming.

We kissed one night outside a club in Florence, well, in the parking lot to be exact. In the backseat of a car like two teenagers. Cold and tired, I went to wait in the car, which had heating. Mario joined me and I knew what was about to happen. After several awkward moments and the tension building, I watched him build up the courage to finally ask, “Can I kiss you?” Although, thinking about it now, it was probably, “I can kiss you?” He asked so nicely that I let him. I was curious to see if we had any chemistry. He asked me out and so we went on a date to my favorite pizza place.

Talking to each other was a challenge and oftentimes frustrating. It prevented me from saying what I wanted to say, but he was always a good sport, and so we struggled together. I enjoyed how silly we could be together and I never felt like he judged me. Since he was rarely serious he would sometimes surprise me with moments of depth. That’s when I realized there was more to him that I knew. I think a huge part that prevented us from growing closer was that we had a hard time communicating with each other.

Distance Makes the Heart Grow Apart

I went back to America for the holidays and we didn’t see each other for almost a month. We did keep in touch, but when I came back, our short-lived romance had fizzled out. We would hang out every now and then and see each other in the piazza, but nothing really became of the two of us. I enjoyed being with him, but my heart wasn’t in it. I was still secretly in love with Luca.

Deep down I hoped I would see Luca in the piazza and we would fall back in love, something I later admitted to only one person. I was full of embarrassment because I felt that it had been such a long time since Luca and I had dated. It had been such a short relationship that I thought I shouldn’t still want to get back together with him. I thought I should have moved on by then. But also I realized denying those feelings and trying to move on with half a heart wasn’t fair to anyone.

Mario was a gentlemen and always treated me well. We are still friends today and I am so grateful that I still feel comfortable reaching out to him and talking to him. He’s a good guy and loves to make me laugh.

The Fourth

There was something about him. I’m still not sure what or how to describe it, so I’ll just say that he’s special. Not in the derisive use of the word, but rather, the positive X-factor quality.

I met Giovanni through the same friend who introduced me to Luca and Mario. (What a great wingman!) He also spoke poor English and was a very serious person, which made my job a lot of fun. I took it upon myself to tease him as much as possible. I was able to test out my newly learned (and highly inappropriate) Italian vocabulary in a setting of me and a bunch of Italian dudes.

He was successful and lived in a big city and was used to bossing people around for a living. It was an extreme joy of mine making sure he didn’t take himself so seriously, which I think surprised and excited him.

I had an unusual feeling of ease and comfort with him.

I would go visit him and we even collaborated a few times on some projects. And when he came into town we would see each other. It was enjoyable just being around him and I admired his work ethic. However, I never allowed myself to get too close to him because he was a bit of a playboy. One time I tried to see if we shared something significant, but he was in a complicated situation and wanted me “to be free.” I also didn’t trust him and so I never delved deeper into that subject.

But there were those sweet moments of “normalcy.” Like when he would make me dinner and show me stuff from work. Never having lived with a guy before, I was surprised how comfortable and at home I felt in Giovanni’s apartment. I found this to be strange and slightly unsettling–in a good way. We had great chemistry together and so it was always exciting to see him. I wasn’t sure if it was love that I felt towards him or just intoxication, hormones, and a sense of comfort.

We were never in the same place long enough to see what would really develop between us, although, I think that’s kind of what we both liked about it. There was no commitment or pressure. There were just two people who enjoyed each other’s company. I still consider him a good friend of mine and we connect every now and then. There was never any closure to our story because we never needed to cut anything off. And I’m not entirely sure what would happen if I saw him today. Our story was left at an ellipsis...

The Fifth and Sixth

Roberto and Luigi. (Yes, you would be correct if you are thinking that I’ve chosen a lot of older sounding names. That is due to the fact that the younger male names in the short list of “Popular Italian Names” are the men’s actual names. But I assure you, all these men were either in their 20s or early 30s. Not that it really matters, just wanted you to know.)

Roberto coincided with Luigi, which is why I list them together. This was actually the problem. As I said before, summertime in Italy is the best time to meet people. And the last summer I spent in Italy was filled with multiple romances. Maybe it was because I knew I’d be leaving for a few months and would be deprived of all the handsome Italians, or maybe because it was marking the year anniversary of when I had met Luca, but I was eager to find my next love interest. I also fell prey to the energy of the summer like every other girl and guy on the prowl. This time, I met these two love interests through a different friend (although it was just one guy who introduced me to both, on separate occasions).

Roberto

I met Roberto a few months before I met Luigi and I was immediately attracted to him. Roberto wasn’t my typical attraction; he wasn’t super tall or fit with a breathtaking smile, but he was definitely charming. He also had that special quality about him. And there was a hidden layer of sensitivity that was intriguing.

He had just broken up with his girlfriend and wasn’t looking for anything serious. (If you think this sounds like a common theme, you would be entirely correct. Italians disappear when in a relationship and pop their heads back out into society after breakups. Which means if you see a new face, he probably isn’t ready for a relationship.)

He was younger than me by a few years and, yes, you guessed it, didn’t speak English very well. Luckily my Italian had improved significantly by this time so we were able to communicate, albeit, difficultly. He was fresh on the market and at the time expressed minimal interest in getting to know me outside of our group of friends. Disappointed, I still tried to attract his attention.

But Then Came Luigi

He was tall and handsome and was fluent in English, which made talking to him super easy. I felt that I could really be myself around him. My humor and personality came across naturally and it was almost effortless. From the start, he had made his interest in me very clear. He made me feel special. I knew a lot of other girls wanted him, but he only wanted to be with me.

He took me on a date to a vegan restaurant, which for him was slightly blasphemous, but — hoping to earn brownie points — he repeatedly declared that he did it because he really liked me. (Major brownie points.)

He told me that he was interested in a relationship with me. So I told him I liked him a lot, but I was also seeing someone else. Oh, did I forget to tell you? Roberto and I shared a tender kiss the night before. We had been out in the piazza when he asked if I wanted him to drive me to my house.

Now, I knew it was actually faster to walk to than drive, but I understood the direction of the sentiment. So naturally, I accepted. We had been flirting every time we were together and it was apparent that we were attracted to each other. Luigi didn’t always come into town, so I had been seeing more of Roberto whenever I went out. The two of us slowly built up a rapport.

I felt awkward about it, so I told Luigi the truth, because I believe honesty is the best policy. I’ve been lied to and cheated on before, which has left me with trust issues and relationship insecurities, and I didn’t want to do that to someone else. He told me he didn’t want to share me. I had to make a decision between the two of them.

I couldn’t decide.

Roberto was emotionally distant, but verbally expressed interest in me. When I was around him I was happy and felt butterflies in my stomach. Luigi was more emotionally available and wanted a serious relationship. He also made me happy, but I knew I wasn’t ready to be together since I also had feelings for Roberto. So I told him maybe we could just stay friends. This worked when we weren’t together, but when I would see him in town I wanted to be with him. This was all very confusing for me and for him. I also knew that I was leaving Italy for three months, so that complicated things further.

The night before I left for Germany I saw both guys. There was a big music festival and they were both there. I had arrived separate from both of them and so belonged to neither that night. Feelings of insecurity and confusion plagued me as I wandered around trying to catch both their attentions.

Luigi ended up giving me a ride home and we had a late night talk about the two of us. I ended up crying, a lot. I was jealous about other girls who liked him and sad because I had to leave the next day. It was a difficult situation. I didn’t know what I wanted but also didn’t want to end things. It was late and I had to wake up early for my flight, so we settled with this: “Let’s keep in touch and we’ll see what happens when I come back into town in three months.”

Time Does Tell

I didn’t keep in touch with either of them for the first month. This eventually led to a fight between me and Luigi. I discovered that he thought it didn’t matter to me if he called, whereas, I thought he didn’t care anymore. We finally sorted it out and became closer as a result. We gained more clarity about the other person’s feelings and expectations.

The following months we kept in touch a lot and talked at least once a week. Amidst the chaos and conflict that was happening at school, he was a brightness I got to hold with me. I saw him when I came back into town and things were good and our relationship was growing. However, he still wanted a serious relationship with me and I was still confused. Eventually we parted ways. He found someone to be in a relationship with, which is what he wanted. I believe it was for the best, and truly hope that he’s happy.

Roberto Never Left

When I got back to town, Roberto and I reconnected. Our friendship and relationship actually grew stronger. I think he had time to finally get over his ex- girlfriend. We saw more of each other and finally went out on our first official date. Public displays of affection became normal and as we became more publicly visible it felt like we were on the brink of something special.

However, I eventually had to say goodbye, again. I was leaving and this time didn’t know when I would be back. I hoped we would keep in touch and I would be back soon. We talked about him making a romantic vegan dinner for me when I came back. I thought I was falling in love with him. Who knows what would have happened in our love story if I had stayed.

But the story is that I left, and the distance proved to me that I wasn’t in love with him. I wonder if we would have become a couple if I hadn’t left, or if I would have gotten scared and ended it. I wonder if the time limit on the relationship made it more appealing. But those are just idle thoughts. He self- admittedly told me that he’s never been good at keeping in touch with people. So alas, we did not. And now he’s blissfully in love and I am so happy for him.

Learning the Truth About Love

So I may have only fallen in love once in my two years in Italy, at least in the traditional sense of the word. My heart broke brilliantly afterwards, but it was worth it. Understanding the profundity of my love for him is spectacularly beautiful. I was able to care so deeply for him and let my guard down just enough to let him in for a short period of time. All of these love stories have played a special role in my life and I’m truly grateful for them. These wonderful men have blessed me by being in my life, no matter how long or short a time.page14image66010688I know you might be thinking, yeah right, how can she be happy for and love all her exes. And you’d be right to think that, to some extent. It has taken me a lot of time and distance to be in the spot that I am now. Initially, I didn’t want their happiness. I wanted them to be miserable without me. I wanted them to pine after me and be hopelessly in love with me for the rest of their lives. But those moments pass. Once the heartbreak heals it’s easier to see things from a more objective, or at least, less emotionally-charged perspective.

I realized that I made mistakes and that obviously things happened that were unsavory, but I grew from the experiences. I learned that just like friends, we don’t always have the same people in our lives. I’ve moved a lot over the past few years and I’ve met a lot of new people. I’ve had new relationships, made new friendships, and lost touch with a lot of friends. I’ve learned that life and relationships are very transient, and that to hold onto them too tightly only suffocates them, and hurts your hand.

My Final Love Story

I want to add that probably one of the most important relationships I had in Italy, if not the most important, was with my best friend. We’ll call him Gianni, because why not? He endured all of these relationships with me, being the wingman, the confidant, the sympathizer, and the friend. He was my rock, allowing me to be sad in moments and also pushing me to move forward in other moments.

We don’t talk as much or see each other almost every day like we used to because he’s in a beautiful and loving relationship all the way in Italy, but he still holds a very special place in my heart. He showed me that women and men can have safe relationships and hold non-sexual space for each other without expectation. He taught me about friendship. There is a softness and goodheartedness about Gianni that I feel blessed to have come into contact with. In fact, I’d say he’s The Seventh Italian that I’ve loved.

He was a love story of friendship and safety.

My love stories haven’t all been of romantic love. But I’ve definitely loved all the guys I dated, because I loved and cared for them as people. And I think that has been what has made it easier for me to be happy for them and still remain friends with most of them.

So what, you ask, did I learn from all these relationships?

I learned that relationships don’t need to be longterm to be significant. Someone once told me that people are in our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime, and that seems to be very accurate. I don’t gauge my most important relationships on length of time, but rather quality of experience. I think we learn something from everyone we come into contact with, and some of those lessons we hold onto forever. It’s what we gain from the relationship and choose to learn and grow from that matters.

I learned that love is more than a four-letter word. There are more subtleties and hues than the English language permits. In Italian there are two distinct ways to say “I love you.” They say Ti voglio bene for friends and family and budding romantic love (literally translating to “I want you well”). Ti amo is reserved exclusively for lovers.

English lacks this differentiation, often blurring and confusing this sentiment in America. My seven Italian love stories provided me with insight into the nuances of love and how I can love someone and want them well even if I’m not in love with them.

I learned that it takes courage to love someone.

I also learned that retrospection is a useful tool that can aid growth. I’m still working on timely introspection to avoid past mistakes and not have to learn after the breakup. But it’s a process.

And most importantly, I learned that I don’t need a relationship or a guy to complete me or make me happy. Everyday I’m learning how to better love myself so that I can show up in my next relationship from a place of fullness, rather than searching for an outside love to fill me.

Self-love

I’ve experienced a lot of heartbreak over my 30 years of life (Italian and not) and I’ve learned that it’s a journey of growth and discovery that is filled with beauty and profundity. Every day I get to choose how I want to show up in the world and how I want to take care of and treat myself.

It’s my love story.


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