(Copyright 1997. All rights reserved.)

The Tattoo

--- Making a Permanent Impression Since 1994 ---

May 19, 1997


Italian men and other tourist traps

Tattoo Staff Writer

ITALY - Too many Italian men have no pride, shame or
tact. They do not just flirt, they follow, grab,
pinch, and on occasion grope female tourists.

Most of the time these advances can be stopped
by a quick slap or a loud yell: "Non mi tocchi!"
(Don't  touch me!).

The only time these methods fail is when the
Italian man in question is a carabinieri -
military police who carry not only pistols, but
also semi-automatic weapons. When these armed
men begin to grab the easiest thing to do is get
up and move to another, safer, location.

 If you are in a crowded area and moving away
isn't possible, the other option is to grab the
nearest burly man and announce, loudly, how glad
you are to have your husband with you. Of
course, if you don't already know the man you
grab, it will be nearly impossible to deflate
his ego and get away later.

After 10 days in Italy recently, a group of 
mostly St. Paul Catholic High School students
learned the key to dealing with Italian men is
remembering their egos are enormous. Most
Italian men are convinced from birth that every
girl with a pulse is madly in love with them. 

When an female tourist is admiring a building or
a work of art, at least five Italian men will
begin to leer at her.

Italian men believe they are by far the most
interesting tourist attraction in the entire
country. They do not grasp that only two men in
Italy are tourist attractions. These are, of
course, Michelangelo's David and the Pope,
because both are inanimate and therefore safe to
deal with.

As for Italian women, there were very few of
them that paid any attention to the male
tourists. Most Italian women were with their
boyfriend du jour, or simply thought they were
too good for any guy in our group.

The Italian girls have as big an ego problem as
the men. It's amazing that Italians can get
married and have children without killing each

Most older Italians still hold a grudge from
World War II, when Americans took over their
country and booted out a dictator. They seemed
angry that we were in their country, invading
their space and looking at their monuments.

As we walked away from stores, restaurants, and
crowds we knew they were thinking "Stupid
Americans." Once, they even said it.

But younger Italians didn't seem to have a
problem with American tourists in their country. 
But that was probably because tourists are the
only people who will actually fall for their
lame pick-up lines.

Surprisingly enough, Italy isn't as different
from the United States as many people think. Its
big cities resemble ours, with too much traffic
and too many people. Of course, U.S. cities don
t have the history or ancient relics that abound
in Italy.

Italians love all things American.

There are sidewalk vendors and large stores
selling clothing and other items bearing the
names of American sports teams. Posters
advertise American movies like Star Wars, Return
of the Jedi, Marvin's Room, The English Patient,
Liar Liar, and Sleepers. The film titles are in
Italian, and, as television ads for the movies
show, they are all dubbed in Italian.

 Italians love American music as well as our
clothing and movies. Italian MTV plays almost
all videos of American groups like Bush and No
Doubt. In music stores there are tapes of
Michael Jackson, Nirvana, and Celine Dion.

American songs play in many stores and
restaurants. Even some radio stations play
American music. In  Florence there is a station
that plays the same music on the air here,
everything from The Spice Girls to Bryan Adams. 

With its canals, the Doge's Palace, Bridge of
Sighs and San Marco's Square, Venice is unlike
any city in the world.

The square is home to some of the friendliest
pigeons in the world. People there can feed the
birds out of their hand. In fact, the pigeons
are so friendly that they sit on peoples 
shoulders, arms and heads in attempts to get

Despite these distractions, Italy is absolutely

Most of the places we went are cities with
pieces of history embedded in them. Pompeii is
the only exception. The entire ancient city is
in ruins because a volcano, Mt. Vesuvius,
erupted about 2,000 years ago and destroyed it.
The best part of Pompeii are the plaster casts
of people who were killed in the disaster.

At Capri, the Blue Grotto is the main tourist
attraction. After a 15 minute ride around the
island and crouching in a row boat to get
through the tiny entrance, the small cavern
seems a little underwhelming, but it is still

The Grotto is mainly for tourists, it doesn't
seem to interest the people that live in Capri
at all. Besides the people steering the boats,
there are no Italians near the Grotto at all. 

Most of the other monuments in Italy seem to
attract both Italian citizens and tourists. The
shops, however, seem to be geared towards
tourists. Many stores listed prices in both lire
and US dollars. This is helpful because there
are 1600 lire to a dollar so prices are hard to
change into dollars.

After you get used to lire, shopping in Italy is
fairly easy because most shop owners speak some
English. When you find yourself in a store where
only Italian is spoken, a knowledge of Spanish
is enough to carry on a basic conversation. 

Food in Italy is good, but very different from
Americanized Italian food.

The pizza that Americans are used to is really
Greek pizza and nothing like the Italian
version. Pizza in Italy is made on a thin,
cracker-like crust, with fresh tomato sauce, and
very little cheese. There are also pizzas with
white sauces, vegetable sauces, and fish sauces.

Italians, like most Europeans, do not usually
use ice cubes in their drinks. Water and sodas
are served at room temperature. Asking for ice
is something only tourists do.

Italians drink all kinds of American soft
drinks. Like every American product in Italy,
soda is much more expensive there than it is
Another American tradition in Italy is
McDonalds. The restaurants in Italy do not look
like American McDonalds. The one in Rome has
marble steps, mosaics and fountains on the
walls, and a huge dessert bar in the center of
the restaurant. 

The restaurant also doesn't smell like a
typical, greasy McDonalds. There is no odor of
frying oil and burning hamburgers.

The help there is friendly and actually treats
people well, and gives service with a smile. The
food tastes completely different too. The fries
aren't greasy, and the milkshakes actually move
instead of staying stuck in the paper cups. 

Italian McDonalds use the old-style American
containers. There are the Styrofoam containers
that Americans won't use because they harm the
environment, and there are the old bags and cups
with the tri-colored Ms on them. The McDonalds
in Italy also use the real Happy Meal

Italy is a beautiful country with a history that
will never be seen in the United States.

Once the Italian men are dealt with, touring the
country is a lot of fun. There are ancient
buildings and  famous Renaissance art throughout
the cities. The food there is better than any
American counterpart - and Italians don't share
our snotty American attitudes.