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How to Make Friends in Italy

It is always amazing to me, ok, maybe not amazing, but NORMAL in Italy, how easy it is to forge new relationships with wonderful people. I've already written about how I met Rosalia and Roberto over lunch in Bologna, exchanged emails and phone numbers, and ended up seeing them for THREE days during our Veneto trip. How likely is it that this would happen in the U.S? In my neighborhood, you could live next door to people for 5 years, and not know their names!

On our first evening in Follina, (population 4,019) we walked a block to the main intersection of town, and had a choice of three bars/cafes. We went to the most crowded one, where many locals seemed to gather. DOCG prosecco: 90 cents. How could we go wrong? We grabbed the only free table outside (maybe there were a total of six tables), and began watching the local scene.

There were a group of 7 or 8 local men gathered at the other tables. After a few minutes, the church bells rang 7 p.m.. Many seemed to begin their good-byes, and the group split off on foot, or bicycle and one work vehicle to head home. There was one gentleman left at the table with his glass of prosecco. I looked over and smiled. He smiled back. I said "Buona sera". He said "Buona sera". I said in Italian, "Do you live here?" That was all it took. In seconds, he was at our table chatting and asking about where we were from. The server was summoned, and he ordered "two more glasses for his new friends."

We spent the next hour with Giuliano, exchanging info about our lives, families, the town, the area, travel, work, etc. At 8:00, he left to go home for dinner. ( I believe I could go to our local wine bar every night for a month and not end up with a new friend. I think I will do a little experiment on this...ok, maybe once a week! LOL)

The next morning, we were in the bar/caffe across the street having coffee. Three interesting things happened. Another of the men we had seen the night before was seated out in front with a glass of prosecco (at 10 a.m.). He spoke to us, and seemed to already know we were "the Americans in town". Another man walked by and stopped purposely to ask how our visit was going. He already knew I could speak enough Italian to chat. He said, "You are American, right?" I said we were, and he replied, "But you are of Italian descent, no? I can see it in your face. You ARE Italian." I wanted to hug him! Soon Giuliano rode by on his bike, and stopped. We invited him to have coffee with us. He said he was on his way to work, but he would be there at noon.

It was market day in Follina. We browsed the two block area of stalls and booths until 12. We returned to the caffe, with coffee to wait for Giuliano. He never showed up. We waited until 1:00. We were somehow disappointed we had been stood up!

Unbeknownst to us, Giuliano had to work until 2:30. We were out for the afternoon, but he came by our hotel several times, asking at the desk for the "blond lady from California." He kept trying, and finally found us on the terrace having a drink at 7:00, before our anniversary dinner. We invited him to stay and have a drink with us. He was so apologetic, and had a business card with his home phone, cell phone and email. We spent another delightful hour with Giuliano, our new friend in Follina.

Giuliano.jpg

I am as friendly in California as I am in Italy. I have never made a friend in a bar/restaurant or caffe in the U.S. What is the magic that happens in Italy to make this a common experience? Maybe it is just because we are visitors from afar, but I don't think that is all. It think we have unfortunately become less trusting of strangers, more paranoid about safety or crime, and that there is also a cultural difference of connecting over food and wine. Maybe it doesn't matter why this is so easy there, but thank God it is.

Comments (6)

LisaF:

Palma,
That was a great story. I've lived in my house for just over a year and finally had a conversation with one of my neighbors this weekend. It was initiated by their young daughter who wanted to pet my dogs. I have also noticed people in Italy are much more willing to talk than those in the US. I've had many conversations with people in Italy, but never took it as far as exchanging personal info to start a friendship. You've inspired me to be a little more friendlier in my next trip.
Thanks, Palma

Giuliano is adorable, kind of like a teddy bear you want to hug!

You are right, though, about people being more friendly in Italy. We live on a short street in the country, and we are friendly with most of our neighbors, and we have neighborhood GTGs several times a year. So, it is a little better than where you live. But not anything like Italy.

P: Loved your story and felt I could relate. Just back from Florence - sitting at dinner we noticed a woman (about the age of my daughter) eating alone. Towards the end of her dinner and our coffees, I asked if she would care to join us. She did - new friend made. The next evening she joined us and brought with her a solor traveller she met at her hotel. It certainly adds to an already wonderful trip, doesn't it?

Nancy Laneri:

I love those people to people experiences in Italy, and they really turn our visits into special memories for us. I totally agree that the little bit of Italian we speak has opened many doors for us....and the hugs and kisses!! It simply doesn't happen anywhere else.

Nancy

Vicky:

Added to all this is the fact that it's easier to become friends with other Americans, and other foreigners (not just Italians), while in Italy. I have met so many Americans while in Europe who have become friends from one chance meeting. Imagine doing that in New York.

Jane:

I think, too, that maybe we are different when we are in Italy--more open, less preoccupied with our lifes, ready for the fun and pleasure in new friendships. The new isn't competing with our daily life and schedule. If I reached out here as I do there, maybe similar things would happen sometimes. Think?

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