I recently got stopped for directions by a woman pushing a stroller in the Prati neighborhood just north of the Vatican. As someone who is constantly trying to be as authentically Italian as possible, this was only the best compliment EVER. Of course, I had no idea what the woman was asking me, and I must have muttered “scusa” and “mi dispiace” about ten times before scurrying away in sheer language deficiency defeat. And yet, something about my appearance must have made her believe I was Roman.
Oh happy day!
So, I got to thinking… What had this mother believing that I, straight from the hillbilly heart of ‘Merica (Texas), was a local? Sure, Ive got the brown curly hair, the olive skin, the tiny frame, but Italians are able to pick out Americans with a mere glance. Usually Im greeted with “hello” when I walk into a bar or panino shop–never ciao.
In order to better explain how I got mistaken for a Roman woman, I compiled a list of ten “street etiquette” tips to help those (like myself) who were not fortunate enough to be born in Italy blend in.
1. Own a fitted, soft-as-butter leather jacket (preferably in red).
2. Oh, and also a suave black leather bag to match. I got mine at T-Nobile, a fantastic leather goods store near Campo de’ Fiori.
3. Master the art of the fastslow walk. The point of ‘flow’ (as I like to call it) is to get from point A to point B as fast as you can. The trick is to make it look as if you are taking a leisurely stroll though.
4. Wear lipstick at all times. Red lipstick.
5. If you are not on the telephone (yelling loudly) while walking, you damn better be listening to musica on your iPhone.
6. Rock 50s Hollywood glam cat-eye sunglasses. They are very in right now.
7. Cross the street as if it pleases the drivers to stop for you. Or better yet, own a Vespa (preferably red) and disregard this.
8. Never but NEVER eat or drink while walking.
9. Make small hand gestures whenever you see something that pleases or displeases you. Nothing too flashy, I’m not talking about blending in with Neapolitans here. Just enough to get your point across.
10. Maintain your bella figura at all times. Pick up your head, push back your shoulders and laugh a little. Confidence makes one truly beautiful, and Italian women inherently understand this concept.