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Rick Steves’ Europe: Italian Boys - Macho or Mammone?


I tell Antonella, “I could not finish a sentence with Piero. Always looking at the girls.”

Piero raises his eyebrows and his hands as if to mount a defense and just sighs.

Antonella says, “I was in England for two years. No boys looked at me. When I came home, in five minutes I was being stared at. I like this. It feels good to be home.”

“But why are the Italian boys always thinking about the girls?”

Antonella says, “In Venice, this is particularly true — especially the tourist girls.”

Walking over a marble veneered bridge, we pass a gondolier. He’s dashing in his straight-brimmed, red-sashed straw hat, obviously well-built under his striped shirt and black pants.

As the gondolier hollers a hopeful hello to a cute passing tourist, Piero says, “He hopes to be suc-sex­ful,” says Piero. As we turn the corner, Piero giggles. “The gondoliers, they get the girls.”

Bouncing happily, waving his hands melodramatically, he plays the gondolier on the prowl, singing, “The moon. Me and you and the lagoon. Oh my, I feel romantic today. I don’t know why. My heart is going boing boing. May I offer you a small special ride for free later on? Here, grab my oar.” Grabbing Antonella from behind around the waist as if she’s about to fall from a gondola, he says, “Be careful, you can fall.”


Pushing Piero away, Antonella says, “Gondoliers are the worst. Here, if a woman marries a gondolier and expects him to be true, we say she has hams over her eyes.”

Piero, with suddenly sad eyes, says, “This is true.”

Antonella adds, “But here in Venice there are plenty of ways to find the romantic life.” We walk to moonlit St. Mark’s Square, where the orchestra plays as if refusing to go home. The vast, nearly empty square has been claimed by two seniors, waltzing like they did 50 years ago. They twirl gracefully round and round. The woman smiles with her eyes closed. Antonella whispers, “In Venice, love is a threesome: you, the right partner, and our city.”


(Rick Steves ( writes European guidebooks, hosts travel shows on public TV and radio, and organizes European tours. This article was adapted from his new book, For the Love of Europe. You can email Rick at and follow his blog on Facebook..)





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