I’m not fond of hunters at the best of times.  Really?  You like to kill animals for sport?  Seems pretty twisted to me.  But, I digress…  This story is about a completely different type of hunter.  Wild animals are not his prey.  Female tourists are.  His weapons?  The beautiful Italian language, red wine, and a questionable charm. 

Allow me, once again, to share a story of my month long sojourn in Rome, Italy this September. 

When I arrived in Rome, my lovely friend who lives in the old historic center had told me an interesting and amusing story about a Roman man who put the moves on her as Roman Street, Rome, Italyshe sat by the fountain in Piazza Madonna in the Monti district of Rome shortly after she had moved there from Canada.  She had her nose buried in a book, the universal sign for “I’m not really into talking right now”, but this intrepid Italian was undeterred.  After only a few encounters, she was able to firmly entrench their relationship into the realm of “friends only”.  Well done, my friend. 

I was a little less slick in my execution. 

I admit it, I was curious.  I wondered if I might witness this Don Giovanni-esque Italian in action, wooing some unsuspecting tourist.  And witness it I did – first hand.  Be careful what you wish for!

I was sitting by the fountain in Monti one sunny afternoon.  The weather was stunning, and the cement of the fountain radiated warmth.  I wandered up to the little wine and beer shop, purchased my little bottle of vino bianco, grabbed a plastic cup, and made my way back to the fountain.  Before long, a small group of Scottish women sat down next to me.  They were a spirited group, and I experience just how spirited when the one gal’s husband came grovelling, obviously trying to make amends after a fight.  This woman, with her grand mop of curly blond hair, fixed him with a withering stare and said “You can just fuck right off!”  After a bit more grovelling from him, and a few more F-bombs from her, hubby decided to gather up his marbles and try his luck later.  This fierce and feisty Scotswoman then turned to me and said, “Christ, I hope ye dinna speak English!”

“I do,” I replied with a laugh.

And so began my night of drinking wine by the fountain in Monti with a group of fiery Scotswomen.  Before long, their sister arrived, having just flown in from Australia.  And she looked more like a Grecian princess than a Scot.  Soon the wine was flowing, and we were laughing at anything and everything. 

Fountain in Piazza Madonna, Monti district, Rome

La fontana dei Monti, Roma (photo cred – Sara White)

Little did I know, I had just had my first encounter with Roberto, the infamous “Hunter of Monti”. 

Before long, my new friends had to leave, and I stumbled back to my apartment and fell into a wine sodden sleep. 

A few days later, I met my Rome-based friend for dinner and drinks at the fountain in Piazza Madonna in Monti.  And who makes a beeline for my friend, but the flirty winker from a few nights before.  I get an introduction through my friend.  Roberto seems delighted that we are all now friends. 

Before long, each time I would walk through Monti, whether to get to school, catch the bus, or go for a run by the Colloseum, I would invariably run into Roberto.  He was always – ALWAYS – in  Piazza Madonna or within spitting distance of it.  It didn’t seem to matter the time of day – he was there.  Did this guy not work? 

Vespa in RomeI discovered very quickly that Roberto doesn’t bother with the typical course of getting to know someone.  This guy gets down to business quickly, flowering you with compliments, hugging you at every opportunity, flourishes kisses on your cheek.  And the guy doesn’t seem to pick up on body language that screams “I’m uncomfortable with this!!”  This was my third trip to Italy, and I have to admit, I have never run into someone like him – a throwback to the old-fashioned, ass-pinching, boob-grabbing Italian you would see in older movies. 

On a few occasions, I was able to pick up speed as I passed him and fend him off with a wave and a purposeful stride.  One rainy Sunday, I was not so fortunate.  The final remnants of a thunderstorm remained – fat raindrops splashing on the cobblestones and dark clouds obscuring the typically blue skies.  I was clad in my trainers and rain jacket, hood pulled up around my face.  Suddenly, there it is.

“Ciao Lynn!!!  Ciao Lynn!!!   Ciaoooo!”

I freeze in my tracks, and peer around the edge of my hood.  There is Roberto, grinning at me like the cat that ate the canary (I felt very much like the next canary, just at that moment).  I return the greeting and after listening carefully to his Italian, I determine that I have just been invited up to his apartment for wine.  It was 11:00 am if memory serves.  And there was no freaking way I was going up to his apartment.  I had already discovered that he lived with his brother, his cousin, and another male friend.  I was fairly certain that it would be a bachelors’ paradise of dirty dishes, piles of dirty clothes, discarded wine bottles, and perhaps a collection or two of panties from tourists around the globe.  So, I suggested instead that I would have some wine with him in the piazza.  He looked at me as though I were mad. 

“Pero, il tempo fa piove!”  But it’s raining! 

At that moment, the sun fortuitously peeked out from behind a cloud, bathing us in temporary heat. 

“It’s clearing up,” I replied firmly.  “And it’s warm now.”  He proceeded to rub my shoulders and spew off some Italian at me that I did not understand.  Finally, he relents, runs his hand up through the back of my hair, and tells me to wait on the bench until he returns. 

Shit.

As he disappears around the corner, I text my friend (who has some experience fending off Roberto) in a panic, asking her what to do.Motorinos and vespas, Rome, Italy

She replies – “tell him you have a boyfriend”.

“At home in Canada?  Or here in Italy that I just met.”

She texts back “Doesn’t matter.  It will get him to back off.  It worked really well for me.”

Just as I’m responding to her in thanks, Roberto returns with a bottle of nero d’avola tucked under his arm, two plastic cups, and a corkscrew.  Me thinks he’s done this before!  As the sun was prolonging its stay, I took off my white sweater and laid it beside me, perhaps unconsciously putting a barrier between myself and Roberto.  He looks at my phone in frank curiosity, and asks who I am texting.

So I spin my tale, of the imaginary lover from Canada that misses me so much, he just had to text me at that moment and tell me so.  He frowns, and proceeds to remind me that when he first met me, Monti district, Rome, ItalyI said I didn’t have a boyfriend.  Did I?  Crap, this guy is like an elephant.  He doesn’t forget a single detail when he is on the hunt.  I manage what I think is a smooth cover, and hope he bought it.  

He sits beside me, and prattles off some Italian as he opens the wine.  He smiles at me.  I think he has a healing cold sore on his upper lip. 

Dude, you are so not kissing me.

The cork gives way, and wine splashes over my white sweater.  This is just getting better and better.

Roberto dashes off to wash it out in the fountain (the stain is still there, by the way), and returns, apologizing profusely.  We totter along in Italian, me struggling to understand and respond back.  Not the easiest thing to do at the best of times, let alone when you’re fending off a hands-y Italian.  He tells me he is the “Hunter of Monti” and cannot settle for just one woman, because he loves women too much. 

Some older ladies approached the bench and he got up and swept his hand toward the seating with a gentlemanly flourish, then moved to stand by my right shoulder.  The shoulder massage then started.  The hand would periodically run up through my hair.  He didn’t really speak English, but he did know the phrase “do you like my magic hands?” 

Ummm, seriously?

Persisting, he wanted to know.  Did I like his touch?  I tried to politely let him know that I didn’t know him that well and that it’s not typical in Canada for people to be so touchy so early on.  He smoothly assured me that it is very typical in Italy! 

A long string of Italian erupted from him, none of which I was able to understand.  Suddenly, a couple of times during his tangent, English words would jump out at me – “safe sex” or “condom” and a couple more mentions of the “magic hands”. 

Ok, you know I’m not a hooker right buddy?

It was time to beat a hasty retreat.  I drained my cup and announced that I had to go to meet a friend for lunch.  And with a firm goodbye, I was off, feeling relieved and exhausted. 

But thanks to Roberto, I learned a new Italian word that day – irrispettoso (disrespectful).

Shaggy+01

My thanks to last.fm for the image! http://www.last.fm/music/Shaggy

I didn’t get to use it though, as I thankfully didn’t run into Roberto for the remainder of my stay in Rome.  My Rome-based friend did see him a few days later in Piazza Madonna, a bottle of wine tucked under his arm, and a starry-eyed young tourist trotting along behind him. 

The Hunter of Monti does not always get his prey, but I think he was going to be successful that day.

But in the words of Shaggy, it wasn’t me!