I took a solo day trip to Verona the other day, because I’m the type of person who will go to Romeo and Giulietta’s hometown by herself and like it. As an English major, I couldn’t justify skipping the balcony that supposedly inspired the “Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo” scene. So once again I found myself making my way to the most touristy part of another Italian town. I jammed out to “No Scrubs” by Unlike Pluto while I walked, because it seemed like an ironic song to listen to at the birthplace of one of the most famous love stories of all time.
The entrance to Giulietta’s “home” was a stone hallway covered with names. Somebody next to me was smoking up a storm and I prefer breathing oxygen, so I hurried into the courtyard for fresh air. The balcony itself was small and unimpressive, and was only accessible through the museum. Most people were focusing on the golden statue of Giulietta in the corner, lining up to take pictures of themselves touching her right breast. Supposedly, it’s good luck in your love life to do so.
I don’t want the type of luck Giulietta had, so I wandered over to look at the trashy-looking wall behind the statue. Turns out, people had left behind a bunch of notes on anything they had on hand—dried gum, padlocks, sticky notes, tissues, parking permits, postcards, receipts, band-aids, sanitary pads, train tickets and toilet paper—and pasted them on the wall, written in marker, pen, crayon, lipstick, thread or pencil. Some contained just initials and a date, others held lengthy declarations of love or urgent pleas beseeching Giulietta to protect loved ones, to help them in finding a soulmate, for blessings in romantic endeavors, for aid for others who couldn’t find life partners or just confessions of being afraid of being cheated on, losing one’s significant other or being infertile. Those were the ones I could read.
I thought it interesting that people would put such honest thoughts out for anybody to see, but I suppose there’s safety and anonymity in numbers. Plus, a select few were downright irreverent in their musings. “Giulietta—why do men suck balls?” read one. I couldn’t tell you, Tara from Melbourne. I couldn’t tell you.
Afterwards, I went back to the hall of names and sat down. Both walls were covered with countless colorful squiggles that would do any abstract artist proud. If I squinted and stopped trying to focus on individual sections, some words and phrases stuck out in thick black. There were a lot of hearts and “forevers” and dates, ironic considering that all the writing was done on wall-sized plastic covers which would one day be rolled up and taken away.
Nonetheless, I was seized with the powerful urge to fall in love right that second, so I could have an excuse to purchase a bucket of lemon yellow paint and slather my name onto the wall.
It’s interesting how static and predictable human beings can be when it comes to romantic love. Look at the Stanford Marriage Pact. Even if us Stanford students don’t want a spouse NOW, most of us think it’d be cool to have a special someone sometime later.
I don’t know if studying abroad increases one’s chances of finding a significant other, since I can’t extrapolate from either my experiences or those of my cohort. It’s only been five weeks, and a fifth of my group came here with the person they were already dating. But from what I’ve seen, Italian guys (or Italian stallions, as some girls have jokingly dubbed them) are very similar to American ones.
They say the same kinds of things in the same tone when they catcall you, and some of them yell out the windows of their cars as you’re jogging along, minding your own business. A guy you make eye contact with at the laundromat will keep asking you to get coffee or go dancing until you’re forced to have a pretend 20-minute phone conversation with your mom to have some peace.
But there are also really cool guys. I met two university students at a hostel in Rome when one commented on the good judgment I exercised in ordering a croissant with cream for breakfast. We realized we were all going to the Vatican, and decided to go together. They gave me a crash course on the current Italian political situation as we walked, stopping to check out the Pantheon and the Colosseum on our way across the city. “And did you vote for Donald Trump?” they asked when we were looking at a monument to fascism, and I winced because to be American is to be linked to the president, whether you like it or not.
I wouldn’t have been able to enter St. Peter’s Basilica if those two guys hadn’t tagged along. My shorts didn’t reach to my knees, and my knees are apparently dangerous tools of seduction for a church. Luckily, one of the guys had a long shirt in his backpack, so I wore that like an apron and was waved in to see the tombs of dead popes and Michelangelo’s Pieta. Afterwards, we went to this burger place for lunch that beat anything I’ve eaten so far in California.
Point is, I’m not sure your love life will be more blessed if you go to another country. And if you’re so desperate to find love or things are going so badly on campus that you’re willing to study abroad to find it, should you really be listening to my thoughts on this? But just like in America, there are cute and not-so-cute guys here, kind and creepy ones too. I will grant that Italian men are generally better dressed, but other than that, the similarities are uncanny.
Maybe the myth of people finding better romantic success overseas is just because people are more daring, more outgoing, more open and more willing to try new things in other countries. They can chalk up anything strange they do to the result of being a foreigner, so they’re more willing to act like themselves. And that works its own sort of appeal.
That’s just part of my working theory on love, though, and last I checked, this wasn’t a relationship advice column. So take that as you will!
Contact Katiana Uyemura at kuyemura ‘at’ stanford.edu.