Two years ago I went on a four month trip to Europe and South Africa. It was one of the best experiences of my life and given the current state of things, I’ve been doing some serious reminiscing back to happier times. In particular I’ve been thinking about Italy, as it’s been in the news so much recently and is one of my favorite places in the world. Lucky for you guys, I had a romance (well, not so much a romance as an interaction worthy of the blog), so for this week’s post, we’re going to Italy! 

I met Joao on my first night in Florence. It was one of those encounters where at first, you’re all about it and by the end you can’t get out of it fast enough. You know those ones? Yeah. Joao is a Brazilian DJ living in Florence who knows my friend Danielle, who just so happened to be visiting Florence while I was living in Croatia. This was geographically convenient so I told her that I was going to meet her there whether she liked it or not.

Danielle lived in Florence for a couple of years so she knows the city, she knows locals, and I was excited to experience Florence more like a local and less like a tourist! Her dad was joining her for the trip too, but would be staying with his friend Bernardo, and I met them both along with Danielle at the train station. Danielle and I got our own cute little Airbnb close to the Duomo and city center, and we were so excited for our girls’ weekend in Firenze!

We arrived in the afternoon and went straight to our apartment to freshen up, drop our bags, and then headed out to meet up with her friends. We found them at an Irish pub, which made me laugh for some reason (When in Rome, ya know?) and immediately we had drinks in our hands and were headed downstairs to grab a table. Danielle caught up with her friends, and after a while there were a few more dudes who had showed up and were hovering near our table. One of these dudes was Joao. 

Joao had dark eyes, long eyelashes, tan skin, a cute smile, a flat brim hat, and a sexy accent. We didn’t talk much at first, but after a few drinks everyone started getting out on the dance floor. The music that was playing wasn’t great, so Joao hopped on the sound system and started to DJ, and pretty soon he had everybody dancing. Every once in a while he would pop out from behind the DJ booth – well, folding table – to come dance with me and Danielle. 

The visits got more frequent and the dancing got more, um, friendly, if you know what I mean. Joao was a very good dancer. I’m pretty sure that’s a requirement if you’re Brazilian, so I shouldn’t be that surprised, but I was really enjoying myself. It may have had something to do with the seven or so whiskey sodas that I consumed, but I didn’t mind when Joao would run over behind me and grind on me like we were teenagers in a club. I would flirt with him and then turn around and dance facing him for a bit, all smiles and batting of the eyelashes. 

He was so much fun and so into me. He was really putting on the moves, coming in closer and closer, and I think he even snuck in a couple kisses. I say I think because, again, seven whiskey sodas. Normally I don’t like kissing dudes I’ve just met in a room full of people, but I think it’s safe to say that my inhibitions were lowered and I was onboard with this Italian romance thing. Or Brazilian, same idea.

I was slightly missing the mark on this “When in Rome” thing but I guess that’s how it goes when you’re in Florence. 

As the night wound down and we were getting ready to leave, Joao was glued to my side. He insisted on walking us home, and since he lives in Florence and would theoretically know his way around, we let him. BIG mistake. As I mentioned before, Danielle used to live in Florence and was fairly certain she knew how to get us home, but Joao didn’t seem to believe her. He usurped the navigation responsibilities from her once we had left together and led us a different way home. AKA, he walked us in circles. Thirty minutes later, Danielle was pissed off, Joao was confused, and I was officially over it. I did not want some Brazilian dude in my bed any longer, I just wanted to go pass out. Joao kept insisting we go this way or that way, and finally Danielle put her foot down. 

“Our apartment is that way!  I’m going that way. Kelly is coming with me. You do whatever you want.” We went her way and miraculously, were home in five minutes. Joao followed us, and at this point it was so late (4am, maybe?) and had taken us so long to get home that I didn’t have the heart to just send him on his way. So he came up with us. 

Our Airbnb had one bedroom and a pullout couch in the living room. Danielle took the bedroom and Joao and I were on the pullout. I tried just going to sleep but he wasn’t having that. Not in an asshole way, he just really wanted to make out with me. I tried to convince myself, this is how you have stories to tell about adventures in foreign countries! And I made out with him. 

Clothes started coming off, including his hat, and that was when I realized how little hair he had. And how drunk he was. Whoa buddy. His eyes weren’t focusing and he was trying to go down on me and I just had to keep stopping him because it was AWFUL. 

I suggested maybe we skip all of the “foreplay” since he couldn’t get it up anyway. (I didn’t say that last part out loud.) I was not disappointed, in fact I was relieved, and very much ready to go to sleep. He was not. He kept pawing at me way too aggressively and I wondered how an attractive, 35-year-old man had made it this long without learning how to touch a woman. 

I told him to stop. He was drunk and didn’t get it. I told him to stop again and then I did the thing that girls sometimes do when they’re with a dude who won’t take no for an answer. 

*Disclaimer: This is not a date rape story. I do not in any way mean to imply that. I am referring to the amount of enthusiasm that some men have when they take a woman home and they don’t want to admit that maybe they’re just not sober enough to be a good lover. They don’t want to give up, so we have to force their hand. I did this by faking sick, because I’m a grown up.  

I pushed him away from me and suddenly grabbed my forehead and my stomach. 

 “What’s the matter?” He was concerned.

“I don’t feel well.” I took a dramatic pause for effect. “I think I’m going to be sick.” I got out of bed and went to the bathroom. I brushed my teeth and washed my face and honestly, probably threw up too but I don’t really remember. I had a lot of whiskey on a semi-empty stomach. 

I really took my time in there before I came back to bed, hoping he would be passed out. He wasn’t. I climbed into bed and rolled over onto my side with my back to him. He slid right over and spooned me. I told him to stop. He backed off. Then he cupped my ass.

I told him sternly, “Do not touch me. I don’t feel well and I’m going to sleep.” He backed off. I passed out pretty much immediately, slightly dreading the awkwardness that would be my morning. Fortunately, Joao was up at 7:00 and had to leave for work! He got up and dressed and then woke me to kiss me goodbye. It was sweet, he was gone, and I fell back asleep until 11. 

Eventually I got up and wandered into the bedroom to find Danielle. We were both just wrecked. Heavy drinking takes a heavy toll when you’re in your early thirties. She asked me about Joao, I told her, she cringed. We showered and headed out. Luckily, we were in Florence, city of cappuccinos and amazing food, two of my favorite things when I’m hungover. 

As the day went on, Danielle kept getting messages from Joao asking what we were doing and if I was with her. I checked my Instagram and saw that he had added me and sent me a message. He wanted to meet up again. I could think of nothing worse. We blew him off and told him we had plans of our own. Which was true. 

We walked around the city, saw a string quartet doing covers of current pop hits, ate amazing truffle pasta with white wine, shopped the outdoor markets, and met up with a friend of hers for a drink. Later we went for dinner with Danielle’s dad and his friend with whom he was staying, Bernardo. Bernardo was a very kind Italian man with two sons, a fifteen-year-old and a twenty-one-year-old.

The restaurant was as if I had designed it from own imagination of wonderful Italian stereotypes; cozy and warm, dark wood and light walls, all the guests seemed to know each other and the waiters, their charming Italian accents drifting through the air, house wine flowing, and the most delicious plates of food I had ever seen drifting endlessly out of the kitchen.  

Everyone at dinner spoke Italian except for me, so I sat quietly at my end of the table and just listened, drank wine, and ate a ton of food. No joke, someone actually commented about how much food I was eating and I laughed. It’s not every day I’m eating actual Italian food in Italy, so I ate as much as I could. (I ended up gaining what felt like 10 pounds in the week I was in Italy, and it was totally worth it.) 

I was seated at the end of the table next to Bernardo’s sons, and they spoke a tiny bit of English but were both pretty shy. Andrea was the older one. He was blonde with blue eyes, scruffy, very tan from working construction all day. He seemed very sweet and was checking on me to see if I needed more wine. Of course I did, but I was too afraid to ask the waiter. 

The waiter was a friend of Bernardo’s, and he was also the owner and chef of the restaurant. The head honcho. A large, jovial, sarcastic Italian man who made fun of everyone at the table and was the star of his restaurant. He also didn’t speak English so I was terrified to flag him down and ask for another white wine. I was also embarrassed to be drinking white wine in Italy but red wine was giving me killer heartburn and it was a sacrifice I just had to make. Andrea must have seen the internal struggle I was having because he asked the waiter for me, and so I got my second and third glasses of wine. 

We ate multiple courses of food, presented family style and spread all over the table. There was a charcuterie plate the size of a small coffee table, piled with meats and cheeses. There was bruschetta and paté, grilled vegetables, bread, and olive oil, and then there were the main courses. The owner asked us if we wanted pasta or meat and naturally we said both please. He brought us a Florentine steak (when in Florence! I did it!) seared to perfection, medium rare, dripping with juices and delicious flavor. Then he brought us three pastas. There was a pistachio pasta that I had thought was pesto at first, light green in color and creamy in texture, a meat ragu over pappardelle, and a short rib pasta that melted in your mouth. I was in heaven. 

I thoroughly enjoyed that meal, and since we were there with Bernardo, the bill was taken straight to and handled by him. I thanked him graciously and emphasized how much I had enjoyed everything, and he chuckled, saying he “could tell I enjoyed the food.”

The next night while we were out, I got a text message from a number I didn’t know. It was Andrea, the older son from the night before who had ordered me more wine when I was too afraid. I didn’t know how he would have gotten my number, but then I remembered Bernardo got it when I had met him at the train station the first day. Andrea had asked his dad for my number and wanted to go out with me. 

I was flattered but surprised since we had hardly spoken to each other, but maybe I came off as mysterious since I couldn’t say very much? Noted. He wanted me to have a drink with him. I told him I had plans with Danielle that night to go see her friend’s band play and that he was welcome to join us. He did, and Bernardo and Danielle’s dad also came. We watched the show and had a few drinks, then the dads went home and we all hung out and had more drinks. A LOT more drinks. 

Joao had been messaging me on Instagram all day, wanting to meet up and “do what we didn’t get to do the other night.” Yikes. Needless to say I was not into it, but I felt bad so I invited him to the show. He showed up so late, after the band was finished, and we were all standing outside drinking and smoking, comfortable and drunk and having a good time. Joao just stalked up silently and stood next to me, as if claiming me. He didn’t greet me or anyone else, he just looked pissed that I was there with other guys. It was instantly uncomfortable.

I said hi to him and asked if he wanted a drink. He said no rather aggressively. (Anti-whiskey-dick maneuvering, perhaps?) So we stood there and I continued chatting with the group while he awkwardly sulked nearby, sober and angry. After a while we went inside and Andrea wouldn’t let me or Danielle pay for a single drink, yet somehow I had more shots? I hadn’t seen Joao in at least thirty minutes and assumed he had left, until I went back into the other room and saw him just sitting silently by himself, looking very pissed off. 

Danielle and I decided it was time to go home, and Andrea and Joao took that as their cue to follow us out. Oooh, this is awkward… It was clear they were both thinking they were going to spend the night with me, when in reality, there was no way either one of them was going to. However, Andrea was way too drunk to drive home, so we told him he could sleep on our couch. Joao seemed to take this as an invite to stay over too, and he literally followed us all the way home. I thought he was being chivalrous and walking us home and thanked him for doing so, stating it with some finality to let him know that he was not invited in. Not to mention we had barely spoken all night, so I didn’t feel that I had given him any reason to believe he was going to end up in my bed that night. When we arrived at the front door of our Airbnb, Danielle had had it, and she laid down the law. 

 “Kelly and I are going to bed. Together. Andrea, you are sleeping on our couch because you are way too drunk to drive and I’m not going to let you sleep in your car, if you even know where that is. Joao, it’s time for you to go home.” 

I stood next to her in the doorway nodding to confirm her words. Joao looked at me, hoping for another answer, and I shook my head.

“I’m going to sleep. With Danielle.” I said as sternly, yet gently, as possible. He was pissed. He huffed and puffed and glared at Andrea, who was completely oblivious to the situation, then stormed off. Ciao Joao! Danielle and I put Andrea to bed on the pullout couch. He reeked of cigarettes and whiskey and had no idea how he got there the next morning. 

Our last day in Florence was spent tasting over 30 flavors of gelato at the Gelato Festival in Piazzale Michelangelo. I have to say, ending my trip eating spoonfuls of gelato on a beautiful day in a picturesque square with a statue of the David and a view overlooking the entire city of Florence was the perfect way to end my trip, and I could almost forget about my attempt to “Do as the Romans do”, or rather, just do a Roman. Besides, I would have a chance to remedy that when I headed out for Rome the very next day.