Dear Blog Readers — I am on vacation in the US with little access to the internet and a decidedly lazy attitude towards blogging. Luckily for me, a blog reader named Kay read two of my earlier posts “Italian Men: Masters in Seduction” and “Italian Men: SPLAT” and decided to share her hilarious story about a tempting gondolier complete with an overbearing Italian Mamma, dramatic confessions, a treacherous Doge, hot cornetti and clean undies, so I am posting her story– with a few pictures:
THE TEMPTING GONDOLIER
OK, so I’m late to the party, but I thought I would share “La Mia Storia di L’uomo Italiano.” It was my first time in Venice and my third time in Italy – a beautiful April’s day and the afternoon sun was glistening on the Grand Canal. I had an Aperol Spritz in my hand (ok, maybe it was my third) while lounging at the edge of a Grand Canal bar/restaurant watching the glorious afternoon light twinkle on the water like little fireworks. I was so happy and I know that I was smiling from ear to ear as I was so pleased to be there and feeling that life could not be more perfect than that glorious moment. Then I felt that little twinge – you know that little twinge of insecurity that slowly travels up your spine and begins to settle between your brain and begins to buzz like an alarm clock. Well, I felt it… someone was staring – I could feel it – encroaching on my moment. I looked around and there he was just staring – smiling and staring. How typical I thought – a gondolier. I took a gulp of the spritz and buzz, buzz, buzz – I looked up again and there he was still staring and smiling a pearly white grin. Tall, dark, thirty- five (younger than me by a few years, but I wasn’t confessing that to ANYONE!) with mirrored aviator sunglasses and muscles peeking from his nicely fitted striped uniform, just typically what a girl would think an Italian Casanova would look like. I paid my tab and had to walk past Casanova (now with his partner who just rowed up) in order to exit the area.
As I got nearer, Casanova came up to me and told me how much he loved watching me – how happy I looked, how “beeyooteeful-a” I was and introduced himself. Alas, his name was not Casanova, but Ugo, and he also introduced his friend “dees ees my friend Franco – my partner – but he ees not as good a gondolier as I am and to prove deees-a to you – I will take-a you on my gondola!” At first I thought “how silly and stereotypical all of this is” but then I thought “hell, I’m in Italy and when in Venice – ride a gondola!” And so I asked him how much for a ride and he said – “No cost-a for you-a, Tesoro mio. I-a just want-a show a bee-yooteeful–a woman my beeyooteeful-a Venezia.” But I know that nothing in life is ever free. HOWEVER, I also know kickboxing so I said “sure.” Besides he was so so so hot and up to now had beautiful manners so I didn’t think I’d be in too much trouble. The ride started out down the Grand Canal and then took off down some side canals with him reciting some history: “There is Marco Polo’s house and Casanova’s house (later I found out that it wasn’t Casanova’s house as Casanova slept at random places that pleased him all around Venice as I thought Ugo probably did as well) and to the right was the Temple of the Foolish American Tourist” (not really, that was just my rational American conscious berating myself). I began asking him several questions about the city and being a gondolier, football (yay, Juventus!), and then expanded into the region of the Veneto (Mestre – not real Venetians!) and a then did a quick skip around politics (maybe the words Lega Nord passed my lips once or twice). I think he was surprised that a girl from Los Angeles knew so much about Italy. One of his responses was “where did you come from – because you not come from America – ees not possible – how you know so much about my country?” Then he stopped the boat.
“Are you going to say that we’ve run out of gas?”
“Nevermind…you probably don’t have a car.”
He asked if I wanted to get on the prow of the gondola with him and he would teach me to row. Heck, I’m game! It was his way of him getting his arms around me – I acted like I was surprised, but it was kind of sweet and besides, I really thought it was cool to learn how to row one of those things and it’s not easy at all! He explained that he had one of the oldest gondolier’s licenses in the city. He is a tenth generation gondolier and his license was passed down through generations of men in his family. Now don’t get me wrong, he was not a groper or a grabber and he was not lecherous. He was very romantic and yes, seductive all the ride through and while telling me about himself and asking me questions about me, he would stop and come sit beside me and finally he asked – yes ASKED to kiss me. Hot and charming and chivalrous…a deadly combination in my book. He slowly touches my face, looks into my eyes like he is looking into my soul and kisses me like one of those kisses you see in the movies, but never have in real life because the men you date are American and they really don’t take the time to learn how to seduce women. It is my firm belief that instead of spelling, penmanship and math, Italian men are taught flirting, kissing and seduction in elementary school. Anyway, Ugo asked if he could take me to dinner and I said yes (like I was going to say no??)…and then he rowed me back to my canal-side hotel.
That night we had a lovely dinner and seriously made out with under an (almost) full moon on his boat (not the gondola) with a fabulous bottle of Brunello. It was an amazing night…and he was a gentleman as he surprisingly didn’t push things farther than I wanted them to go. But things went further as the days went on and he stayed with me at my hotel the next night…because at 35 years old (and even though he makes a VERY healthy income) he still lives with his parents!
And of course who should come visiting my hotel early the next morning dropping off breakfast for her bambino, but Mama herself! Yes, we get a call in my room early in the morning and it is the front desk saying that Ugo’s mama is insisting upon delivering something to the room. Ugo grabs his pants and quickly goes down to the front desk and brings up a small box with two paper bags in it. One for me and one for Ugo? How SWEET I think to my naïve and stupid self. But no, no, no, no!!!! In the small bag is a breakfast pastry and there is a small thermos-like bottle with fresh espresso. On the bag is written some scrawl that I can barely make out that says “NON PER LA AMERICANA!!!!” in all capital letters with four exclamation points. Like I would deny this boy’s pastry from him! What does this woman take me for – some cronut snatching hussy? In the other larger bag was…I shouldn’t even write this because you would not believe this, it is so embarrassing, but mama included a clean pair of undies for Ugo. (She will probably burn the La Americana-infested dirty ones.) Ugo said that she just wanted to make sure he was OK and had something to eat before he went to work. Yeah, uh-huh.
Being the glutton for punishment I opened Pandora’s Box and reached in with both hands and asked Ugo why he still lived at home.
“Why should I move, and even though I do not like my mama, she takes good care of me”
“You don’t like your mama?”
“No – ees long story… I have confession.”
“Do I look like your priest?”
“I have a daughter. She is 10 years old.”
“You have a wife?”
“No, my mama would not allow me to marry her. Mama said that this girl was only after the money of a gondolier and did not love me for me. When this girl got pregnant my mama told me…and my father – a gondolier who was about to hand over his license to me – that if the girl had a son (a son that could, in turn inherit my license from me) then we could get married, but if she had a daughter and we got married, then mama would insist that father give the license to my cousin instead…and I would have nothing. So I had to make a only choice – all I know is the gondola and my mama would make my life and her life hell.”
“Wow. I can understand why you have conflicting feelings towards your mother. Do you see your daughter?
“Yes, I see her when I can – her mother married another gondolier….”
Mama continued to come by for the next 4 days I spent in Venice and Ugo and I continued to have the most amazing sex of my life. Ugo has ruined my life for anything but Italian men. We made love on his gondola on a moonless night on the Grand Canal and off of the island of Torcello in the Venetian lagoon.
There also continued to be more revelations as we got to know each other:
“I have a confession.”
“Do I look like your priest?”
“Vianello is not my last name.”
“Who are you?”
“I am so ashamed and can understand if you no longer want to see me.”
“Are you wanted for something? Are the Carbanieri looking for you? OMG is it M-A-F-I-A?”
“No, no, no. Ees bad. My family carry the shame in our blood. The shame of Venezia. I have to tell you, but no one but family knows. I use my mother’s name, but my real family name is Faliero. There you know now.”
“Faliero! Faliero! The doge! The doge! The only doge that was for treason in Venezia – the only one that the people of Venezia execute. I carry that shame in my blood.”
(I am thinking to myself – you have got to be kidding me. I Googled this Faliero character – not Ugo, but the doge and the guy was executed for treason in 1355! That was over 600 years ago and Ugo is still carrying that “shame” with him? Talk about not letting go…is this a bad sign?)
We continued to see each other with my going to Venice as Ugo had no desire to come visit America. (He had a dislike of a great many of the Americans he encountered in Venice, why would he go to a land full of them on a holiday he reasoned.) Ugo moved into his own apartment in Venice three years ago and proposed to me shortly thereafter. (The proposal is a story unto itself.) I considered it thoughtfully and even though I love him dearly, I cannot live in Venice and that is where his life is. He needs someone who will give him a son to continue the legacy that is so much of who he is and what Venice is. Unfortunately, I am not that person. I understand that, although it was hard to get him to understand that. I will always look back to the time with Ugo with laughter and love and with a smile…and not a bit of regret. I will never regret that third spritz or taking his hand and stepping on that gondola. It was the best ride of my life.
Trisha is a TV journalist working for AP TV News in Rome. She is married to an Italian and is a Mamma of three.