Buongiorno, ragazzi.

Many of you have written to ask about my love life. My British friends have been typically circumspect (“Any interesting acquaintances thus far?”), while my fellow Yanks have tended to come right out with it (“So? What’s the deal? You getting’ an Italian passport or WHAT?”).

In both cases, subtext is clear. Okay, Selwyn, where the hell is Super Mario?

Well, the truth is this. Before you can embark on a full-fledged love affair here in Italy, you must understand local practice and custom. To that end, I’ve been gathering data. And here’s what I’ve come up with:

The Five Commandments of Italian Love: What to know if you're looking for Super Mario

1. THOU SHALT REMEMBER THE MARIAN DOGMA. In short (and please keep in mind you are hearing this from a Jewess from New York), it means Mary is the Mother and the co-redeemer. She is perfect in every way. She bore the Christ child. THEREFORE, by extension, the same rule applies to ALL mothers. Specifically, Super Mario’s mother is perfect; she gave birth to him, for
starters. YOU will NEVER be placed above HER. You will be lucky to receive her blessing, never mind her lasagna recipe. Mama comes first, second and third. If you can’t live with this, you are well advised to relocate. I recommend Bristol.


3. THOU SHALT BE ASSERTIVO BUT NEVER AGGRESSIVO. Communicate that you’d like to see a film, for example. But never ever EVER choose the movie. That’s Super Mario’s job. Or, communicate that you like the countryside. Let S.M. suggest Tuscany. NEVER book your own hotel. NEVER book a restaurant. Even if, like me, you’ve spent 20+ years negotiating contracts, earning
graduate degrees and running major divisions of international corporations, NEVER ask to see the wine list. That’s Super Mario’s job. Capische?

NOT AS HISTORICALLY IMPORTANT, IT IS LESS SOPHISTICATED AND REFINED. Now, with deference to my many British friends, I had a bit of a head start on this one by moving to London six and a half years ago. Through disgusted looks and subtle put-downs, I came to understand that, as an American, I was placed squarely at the bottom of the heap. My accent, my misuse of the letter z, the current Administration’s so-called foreign policy: all of these contributed to the general sense of cultural superiority felt by Brits vis a vis Americans. Bit of a case of tit in the ringer on the Tony Blair poodle question, of course... Anyway. I accept that from a nation that gave us Shakespeare, Disraeli, Virginia Woolf, Charles Dickens, Spotted Dick (!) and Books for Cooks.

Here in Italy, however, it’s slightly different. There is no judgment involved. It’s simply taken as read that Italy is the epicentre of all things cultural as well as culinary. You are welcome to join in and welcome to worship at the holy temple of Italophilia. But do not, under pain of losing Super Mario tutti pronti, never ever EVER attempt to compare your culture to his. This is tantamount to insulting Mamma. Which is tantamount to questioning his manhood. Which is a surefire way to ensure you WON’T be celebrating next Valentine’s Day in Rome. (For cross reference, please see the First Commandment.)

SUPER MARIO FROM THE NORTH AND EVERYONE ELSE. Now we’re getting into the detailed stuff. Truth is, an Italian is not just an Italian. An Italian is also an individual who hails from a specific region. For example, an Italian may be a Sicilian. Or he may be from Puglia (a Pugliese). Each region has unique
characteristics, too numerous to discuss here. Suffice it to say that when you meet your Super Mario you must determine where he is from and, if he hails from the North, you must accept there is special deference due.

A. If your Super Mario hails from MILAN:
He is known as a Milanese. He is an uber sophisticate. He comes from the region with the best food. His ancestors have made the most important contributions
to the glory of the nation. Key words: Prada, The Last Supper, Fendi, risotto.

B. If your Super Mario hails from FLORENCE:
He is known as a Florentine (or, more broadly, a Tuscan). He is an uber sophisticate. He comes from the region with the best food. His ancestors have made the most important contributions to the glory of the nation. Key words: Medici, Renaissance, Arno, Uffizzi.

C. If your Super Mario hails from VENICE:
He is known as a Venetian. He is an uber sophisticate. He comes from the region with the best food. His ancestors have made the most important contributions
to the glory of the nation. Key words: Serenissima, gondola, doge, Adriatic.

Keeping all of the above in mind, you should be betterplaced to meet your Super Mario.

In reality, it’s not very difficult. Italian men are heavenly. They are gorgeous, sexy, romantic and courtly. You can fall in love buying headache medication. By the time your potential S.M. asks if you want ibuprofen or aspirina, you’re swooning and, hopefully, in need of full-body resuscitation. JUST DON’T ASK TO SEE THE WINE LIST.

I’m going to take my own advice and get out there and meet a Super Mario, if it’s the last thing I do.

Stay tuned.

X A.


© Copyright Amy Selwyn 2004