Living in Italy - Part 9: Gallantry and women

After the Abruzzo earthquake Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi was quoted saying the victims living in tent cities should think of themselves as being on a camping holiday. He hit the news again a day ago by telling a female doctor "I wouldn't mind being resuscitated by you".

The press took it badly, but Dr Carrieri from Milan took up the Prime Minister's defence, saying he had paid her a "gallant" compliment to "take the drama out of the situation". (Full)

Which makes me think of men, women and Italy... After living in Italy for two years, I still find it remarkable how women are given remarks by Italian men. Women who lived in Italy for a while might easily see them as compliments, but foreigners would surely be surprised if not insulted:
Not only is staring almost an art, but it is also usual to be greeted in a shop with a "Ciao Bella!" ("Hi beautiful") and to get a "Arrivederci, cara" ("Bye, sweet").

It is usual to be talked to when sitting (as a woman) alone at a table in a restaurant or bar. Getting whistled at is a daily occurrence, remarks about the way a woman looks or dresses are common. Most women don't react, or (pretend to) see it as a compliment. Only they can tell if deep down inside they do. But if you, as a female tourist, visit Italy, don't be surprised...

More on The Road about Living in Italy


Anonymous,  15 April, 2009 17:48  

Foreigner ladies are really very attracted by the latin chatting up...the "Ciao Bella" is very popular also abroad... Gross comments are not liked anywhere... and me being an Italian woman I disregard those remarks.. in any language... better to ignore rude men in their wildness..

pumuckl 15 April, 2009 21:42  

I love being greeted with ciao bella, cara.... same takes place in the States, actually, just there it is even more general, as many women salespersons say good morning sweetheart to women customer and men customer. to say ciao bella, ma belle, baci is very common among my women friends, and if a man does it, it is usually sweet... to say Prinzessin instead of my name, or to use a short form... I don't know, I really like it.

I think one can tell if somebody is being gallant, flirty or creepy.

Anonymous,  17 April, 2009 09:26  

With Berlusconi I am sure it qualifies in the creepy category.

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