Italian Men & African-American Women: The Truth Behind The Myth

“We’re your weather girlsss, and we’ve got newssss for you! ”

Traveling while black is an experience in and of itself. As an African-American single female, it is typical to search “Do italians like black people? Do russians like black girls? Do asian men like black women?” before making a trip, because let’s face it, none of us want to travel to a place where we will encounter racist remarks or feel unwelcome. It’s a sad truth but yes, the fear of not being accepted is a large reason why a lot of American Blacks don’t venture overseas, or out of their country, to places other than the Caribbean or Africa. Before leaving for my study abroad trip I read the blogs of probably every black traveler to see the places I should visit or stay away from.

While doing this research, I came across a dozen of comments and blogs of how widely received we were in Italy, and I’ll admit they were one of the reasons why I was dying to go. There are a million comments on the internet saying, “Go to Italy, they love black girls there! ” . Even white female travelers were recommending as a place to go. Probably the funniest I’ve read was a site, dedicated to black women traveling to Italy, almost guaranteeing that these hopeless romantics would find the man of their dreams there. After reading up on it on google, you would think that flying to Italy would magically turn you from broke Cinderella into Beyonce!

From my own experience, I can say that this myth is indeed overhyped. As an attractive African-American female, I can tell you that you will still be the same girl you are in NY in Italy. There are, however, four main factors in Italy that will increase your luck in love:

1. Being foreign:

It’s sort of typical for men of any nationality to be more attracted to a foreign girl than a girl from next door.  Being an American girl comes with a slew of positive and negative connotations. We can thank the film industry for that! Most Italian men will be in awe at the fact that you’re from the USA, because we’re glamorized in film all the time. There are actually quite a lot of African women born in italy due to immigration who don’t receive any special attention, and are even sometimes looked down on. So you’re American? Cool! Everyone will want to hear your stories from the states.

The negative image, again we can thank the film industry, is that American girls are super easy. (If anyone’s seen Love Actually, you’ll know why) That’s not specifically for black American girls, but for all. Italian women, as I’ve heard, are extremely hard to talk to (from an Italian man’s perspective). American girls are used to girl-boy friendships, (a concept that is unknown to the Italian men) and with this, are a lot easier to approach.  So naturally, Italian men will approach you very often.

2. IT’S RAINING MEN. Amen!

Literally. Walking around in Rome I noticed this, but I’m not sure if there is any factual evidence behind it. My italian boyfriend reiterated this to me as well, “Italy is a country of men.” In a piazza in Rome in front of the movie theaters, I observed that in every social group there was 1-2 girls and 4-5 guys. My mind was blown. So, yeah, more available men = more attention.

“Get Ready, All you lonely girls. And leave those umbrellas at home! “

3. Less prejudice.

I’ll admit it, in the states even as an attractive African-American female having a caucasian man hit on you is rare. I’m not saying it never happens, it just doesn’t happen often. A lot of it could be segregation. (Yes, I said it, we still have segregation) We don’t usually live in the same neighborhoods or attend the same schools, so if there’s no interaction then the opportunity never strikes. Also, most caucasian men in the states still have prejudice mindsets. Simply meaning that dating an African-American woman isn’t the ideal, certainly not the trophy wife; unless of course you’re a Beyonce. If there has been some exposure to the culture, or the people, then the chances are greater.  In Europe, or Italy rather, there are less prejudice mindsets when it comes to dating. They’re simply open to the experience and value beauty as a whole. They see us for us, not as an upgrade or a downgrade. If you’re beautiful then you’re still beautiful there. In America, if you’re pretty, you’d be “pretty for a black girl”, as people like to say.  In London, I saw the most interracial couples I’d ever seen in my life! Even more than in Italy.  So, I’d say overseas the playing field is leveled when it comes to dating. But you certainly shouldn’t feel like being there will turn you from a pumpkin into a horse-drawn carriage.

The funny thing is, talking to Italian men, they seem to know nothing about this overly glamorized Italian men-black women myth. Italians simply can appreciate all types of beauty. Nothing more and nothing less.

4. The Difference

I hate to say it, but there is definitely a difference between the African women born in Italy and the African-American women from the states. We have a different culture, we carry ourselves differently. Also, we have access to a lot of beauty products that they do not have access to in Italy. They just don’t carry our products there. (I.E: no MAC, no Remi, no Peruvian, no Brazilian, no 1B/2B, etc.) Most of the African women I encountered where rocking the natural fro, or had ethnic braids in.  Therefore, we resemble more than African-American women you see in television and movies, which can be especially attractive because it’s something they are not used to seeing. Also, since most Africans there are immigrants, they don’t  usually have the means to buy the things that we do to enhance our own beauty. (For those who don’t know, a good weave can cost upwards of 200- 800 dollars!)  So you can imagine how this plays out in appearance. Even the African- Italian men there repeatedly told me that they could tell I was not italian. I also have features more keen to Ethiopia, whereas most of the Africans living in Italy are from Morocco, Senegal, Nigeria, and Ghana.

So there you have it, the truth behind the myth! I hope this blog is hopeful for all you reading the crazy comments you hear on the net regarding the swirl in Italy . Have fun! 🙂

Advertisements

First Day As A Pair.

Traveling With Friends…..
So this morning ended my solo journey with the arrival of my best friend from college. I was extremely happy to see him, after spending hours thinking of all of the horrible things that could’ve happened to him on his way here. We exchanged our first experience traveling alone abroad horror stories and cringed at the amount of money we ended up shelling out to taxi drivers, but agreed that all in all, we made it out okay. He was extremely tired from the trip so we rested for a bit before heading out to the city centre. Today we would explore the ancient ruins of Roma.

After spending at least four hours traveling to Timburtino to resolve our Vodafone issues, we made our trip back to city centre. The first stop on the long train commute to the Colosseum. It was truly as beautiful as it appeared in the textbooks, pictures, and movies. We marveled at the Roman architecture and took tons of “selfies” in front of the monuments! We both did the touristy thing and bought souvenirs from the vendors. It was fun to have a partner with me, it made my travels much more relaxed, and being that I have no conventional map skills, being lost didn’t feel as lost with someone who  knew how to navigate. I found that my Italian was already improving, piecing together sentences and communicating as much as I could in the language whenever possible. I was determined to make this a learning experience for me, my friend stuck to his handy dandy google translator. Whatever works . 🙂

After leaving the Trevi Fountain we decided to stop in the hotel facing it to inquire about a room for our last day in Rome. He was a kind, Italian fellow who only spoke English, which was surprising for me to encounter. We asked about the parties as we were dying to go to one in Rome, and he suggested one at the Circolo di Artisti, which we went to without hesitation. But of course, not without stopping in a pub for drinks to celebrate our newfound legality. 🙂 One Manhattan and one Long Island iced tea, per favore ! (you can take the students out of New York, but….) 😉

Entering the Circolo di Artisti,  I was immediately reminded of the dark and mysterious goth table that everyone avoided in high school. The outdoor bar reeked of cigarettes and leather jackets. The people there appeared to be young, ranging from early 20’s to late 30’s. At first glance it seemed inviting, but after a few minutes it dawned on me that everyone there was in small groups of people who probably already knew each other and shared an interest in punk music. It didn’t take long before my friend and I, in our brightly colored red and orange jackets began to stick out like a sore thumb. We went upstairs to get burgers, which turned out to be far too dry for my liking, and complimentary beer. ( I’ve always hated beer.) While we most likely would’ve left directly after eating, the rain caused us to stay and go inside for the concert. We were lucky tonight, a performance by The Dirty Beaches. ( And yes, their name was almost as awful as their sound).  To be fair, if I was into punk music it might’ve been alright, but being as though the consierge informed us that it was pop, and we had taken two buses to hear pop, seeing a man in a skirt and black eye make up dance around on stage to sounds being referred to as music was just not my cup of tea. Didn’t do it for my friend either, so without much ado we vanished from the dark concert, seemingly unnoticed.

To make the night a million times better, it began to rain and two different buses zoomed past our stop without picking up any passengers. We ended up cabbing it to our B&B, a total of 35 euros spent on a rather uneventful evening. Buonanotte.

My First Day Abroad – Roma

Io ho arrivato…

And my plane ride couldn’t have been more pleasant. After an anxious morning and weekend frantically packing and retrieving last minute items, I was tremendously relieved to sit down next to a lively old woman named, Anne*. By the time I boarded the plane, I had completely allowed my nerves to get the best of me. After months of anxiously awaiting my departure, on the day of I did not feel ready to go. Pits in my stomach, heavy breathing. This feeling of uneasiness was expressed across the board, especially in my packing; for every single item I deliberated when and where I would wear it ( I ended up leaving with two huge suitcases ). I walked to my gate with little confidence, afraid of what lie in head of me. At this moment, the slightest mishap would’ve had the ability to cause a total nervous breakdown.

        With this being said, it is easy to understand why sitting next to Anne felt like a blessing from God. Though she appeared to be in her late seventies, she had the joy and spirit of a seventeen year old girl. She waddled up to row 49 and smiled to me saying, “I guess you’re my new partner!”. I saw her motion to her bag, a small carry on that was seemingly bursting at its seams, and asked her if she needed my help. “Oh no, sweety! I’ll ask one of these fine fellows to lift it up for me”, she said with a wink. Then, she turned on the sweet charm of a weak, older woman and brought two drop dead gorgeous flight attendants to her assistance.
As soon as she sat down she began to tell me about her day, the amazing steals she bought from the no duty make up shops, and her trip to Florence. She adamantly shared her love for traveling, the amazing trips she’d been on, and her extremely active lifestyle. I was surprised to find out that she frequented the gym I work for and immediately convinced that staying healthy and active was key to living a long, eventful life. She soothed my nerves with her jolly voice and turned my feelings from freight to excitement—“the time will fly by, make sure you get the best of it”. She expressed these words so frequently they became etched in my memory.
When we parted ways to our connecting flights in Dusseldorf, I was full of hope for the future abroad. As soon as I departed from the train, I felt different. Different in a sense of seemingly being the only black woman in the terminal and different in my thinking. Although I was now completely alone in the world, I was not afraid. There were two things that I immediately noticed. One of the positive benefits of being black is a feeling of strength knowing that people seem to be innately fearful of you. One of the positive benefits of being a black woman  is that people are genuinely intrigued by you. This in the airport took the form of dozens of stares and awkward smiles of being caught staring. I’ve never felt so stared at in my life — and was immediately happy that I’d decided to fly fashionably.
However, nothing could have prepared me for the amount of attenzione I received in Italy.  As I sleepily walked into Fimucino’s terminal the words “ciao bella” were whispered every three seconds from the airport staff. After retrieving my luggage and making my way to the information desk, I made my first encounter with the first authentic Italian man to “fall in love with me”. His name was Claudio*, a Roman fellow with long, white hair and blue eyes, who helped me tremendously in finding my way. Within moments he found all the information I needed to reach my train. He warned me of the gypsies and their techniques to steal money from tourists. He also warned me that the B&B that I was staying in was in a sketchy neighbourhood, to be careful when I am alone. “Are you sure you want to go there? You can stay with me instead, I am single no married, I make you good spaghetti!” I declined, for I was meeting my best friend at the B&B (whom Claudio politely told me to forget about) but was now weary about how far I’d have to go to reach my accomodations. I should have taken the advice of everyone who said to travel light, my suitcases were completely unmanageable. I stopped every five minutes to rearrange them in a way that carrying them would be more comfortable. Epic fail.
When I left Claudio, I was saddened by the fear of being completely alone again, but to my surprise everyone I met on my first day was extremely helpful. There was the heavy Italian conductor, the train attendant, the German visitors, and even the begging Indian mother with beautiful child (yes, they are here also!); all these people were so kind and helpful to me, assisting me with my bags and trying to help me find my way. I got lost at the train station and though people tried to explain how to reach Ottavia, their Italian was too fast and too difficult for me to interpret. I sat in the station is dismay for venti minuti, dreading the idea of pulling my bags out the station by myself. Literally, at that moment, I would have ditched my bags completely if I could’ve. Stairs became a mortal enemy. I searched for elevators like a homeless man searching for plastic bottles. Never again would I be so stupido! Walking only five steps with these bags caused me to sweat in my leather jacket. I wanted to give up right there, I was finished, caputo.  After much desperate deliberation, I decided to make my way outside and catch a cab there. Anything would be better than the idea of dragging all this luggage to an unknown destination.
My cab driver turned my day from bad to buona. His name was Antonio, a bald, middle aged Italian man who spoke poco inglese. I told him that I was a student studying here from New York, but would only be in Rome for a couple of days. He tried his best to understand me, but told me, “from now on, if you want to survive, you must speak only Italian”, I took his word for it. He offered me a mini tour to see St.Pietro, the colusseum, and the trevi fountain. Wow! I was speechless at the site of my most dreamed of landmarks. Antonio, being the kind man that he was, allowed me to get out and take pictures of each one. In Italian, I asked him of his favorite restaurants, the costs to live in Roma, and of his children. It was a pleasant exchange, but I found myself looking up words constantly to keep up with him. This was my first true conversation in Italian, with a native. We both tried our best to help each other with unfamiliar words, I truly loved the experience! Almost an hour later, we reached my villa and once again I was saddened to see a stranger go. The meter stopped at 44 euros and I gave him 55, thinking that he definitely earned a nice tip. To my surprise, he returned the money and told me, “tipping is not necessary here, only if you want to, here, you need your money”. I was completely shocked. I never thought the day would come when a cabbie would not try to screw you over, but I guess that was the New York in me.
Isabella and her husband helped me in to a beautiful, homely feeling B&B, with a common dining area and a small pool in the backyard. It felt like the Roman homes I read about it Ecce Romani, my old Latin textbook. I dropped into the bed and reflected on my journey here. Not too bad, I thought to myself. I spent the rest of the evening unwinding, waiting for my friends arrival, letting family and friends know I reached my destination safely. I  actually made it, all by myself.