The truth is stereotypes are more often true then not (don’t shoot the messenger). Black people are late, white people cant dance, and yes… Italian men love them some black women. It’s a legendary tale but if you have been a black woman in Italy… you’ve seen, felt it, and loved it. If you ever need an ego boost or even wondered what if felt like to be Kim Kardashian for a day… go to Italy.
My first experience as a Black Girl In Italy was straight out of college backpacking in Europe (yes, some black folks do it too). Everywhere I went in Venice, I would hear “bella…bella”. Sure it was nice at the beginning but after awhile the looks and stares began to make me feel like an object – a caged animal being stared at the zoo. I was such a spectacle on that trip I was asked 4 different times to take pictures with strangers. It’s odd, weird, flattering, and offensive all at the same time.
In 2007, I returned to Italy. On my first European tour, I fell in love with the country and knew I wanted to go back. So I went to Sorrento, a small beachy town in Southern Italy and stayed with an Italian family while I studied the language and wrote for 6 weeks. It was my first time traveling by myself. I was extremely excited and found the experience liberating but I was also curious, what about the moments when I didn’t want to be alone? How do you meet friends? But there I was, fresh from the airport on the train from Naples to Sorrento and a small Italian man was starring at me. His name was Danielle. He spoke perfect English and invited me to his “American Bar” in Sorrento. The next night, not knowing a soul in the city I went to Danielle’s bar and for the next six weeks it became my Peach Pit. Wherever I went, the men found me intriguing. Fabio, one of the bartenders in the bar, became my “personal tour guide” with trips to Positano on the back of his scooter and dinners at secluded restaurants in the hills. Nelo, a student moonlighting as an hotel concierge took me to Massa Lubrense and nightly walks in the city. I even had Phillip, a semi stalker while I was there. Phillip was nice and harmless but I swear to God he must of put some time of GPS system on me because whenever I was alone, he would show up on his scooter, with a flower asking questions about my day. Even when I took a weekend trip to Capri I met Giampero, the gorgeous owner of one of the oldest hotels on the Island.
All this attention happened when I wasn’t at my smallest or most fit. Even happened at time in my life when at the end of a bad relationship and I wasn’t the most confident. At times the attention was aggressive and came when I wasn’t interested. Once I followed what seem to be a nice guy to a beach that only locals knew about. It was gorgeous but the Dude wouldn’t take no for answer. Too aggressive, I left but realized I wasn’t too sure how to get back to the city. Although it’s nice to cause heads to turn when the majority of the times in your life people don’t look twice, it became overwhelming. Honestly, a small part of me understood when gorgeous women complain about only being seen as objects and for not being the person that they are.
I returned back to the States with a confidence that I never had before. Often we question are worth when rejected. But rejection didn’t hit me so hard after my trip. Who cares if these damn American men aren’t excited about me, at least I know I got fans in Italy. In an odd way it reminded me that just because one person isn’t interested, doesn’t mean the next one is not. People’s taste and ideals of beauty vary; therefore what’s not cute to someone is the personification of perfection to another. The other night as a group of my girlfriends had dinner in an Italian restaurant, one of the waiters noticed my broken Italian and asked if I “needed someone to help me with the language”. Ahhh… You can take the man out of Italy but you can’t take Italy out of the man.
I have found memories of Italy. The liberation of traveling alone, the personal growth and yes… the men. Every black woman down on her luck felling underappreciated needs to plan a trip. I’m telling you… it’s worth it.
** I blogged during my time in Sorrento. Click HERE to read.