Two weeks ago I set out on a one-day road trip to the Amalfi Coast to join my Mediterranean cruisin’ cousin and her friends.

The day started out slowly, with a flood in the southern Calabrian city of Reggio Calabria delaying trains by at least two hours. Determined … I waited. And waited. And waited. And then I went on.

I hopped on a bus in Salerno for a 50 minute bus ride up the scenic Amalfi Coast to the namesake town of Amalfi.

And that is where my story begins …

As I boarded the bus I saw an elderly man – knocking on 75, I’d say – shuffling his way towards the bus stop. I had seen him earlier on the train from Calabria and we acknowledged each other and went on our way.

He joined me on the bus and asked if he could sit with me. “Sure,” I said, thinking this man, with his wealth of knowledge of Italy’s most beautiful coastline would help me pass the time with stories of the area.

A whopping two minutes after the bus departs, I feel a hand on my knee.

Hmmm …

I brush it off and think it must have been an accident.


There it is again.

I rearrange my bags and lean a little closer to the window. At least it was a nice view.

He leans in, “I just want to spend a little time with you,” he whispers. “Where are you going?”

I tell him my travel plans and end with a remorseful, “So, no. I can’t spend the day with you.”

“I have a house here,” he insists. “You can stay with me and I’ll drive you back to Calabria tomorrow.”

Wondering if this man is joking, if he has lost his mind, or if I seriously have “I’m a tramp” stamped on my forehead, I politely, yet somewhat more forcefully than last time tell him “No, thanks.”

The entire time this conversation is going on, his wiggly fingers are trying to pry themselves beneath the bags I had firmly stationed between us.

Wiggle … wiggle … I felt a fingertip.

Just then his phone rang and I seized the opportunity to build a wall between us with my book and bags of Calabrian products I was taking to my cousin. I was careful to keep my purse on the other side – lest all this feeling-up was just a ruse to get my wallet.

He hung up with his wife – Porco! – and started right back in on the finger crawl.

“I’m never gonna win,” I thought to myself. “He’s had 70 years of practice working on women … I’ve only had two!”

Finally. After 50 minutes of pushing him off of me, we arrived at his stop. He tried once more, “We are getting off at the next stop,” he said.

“We?” I ask suspiciously.

“Well, I am. I hope you will get off with me.”

“No,” I tell him, without smiling.

“Do you need anything?” He insists. “Do you need money?”


Without even trying to convince this old goat that I am not an American prostitute working the costiera, I tell him no and send him on his way.

So, can someone please tell me what I am doing wrong? What is it about me that screams – take advantage of me? – to aging Italian men? Has this ever happened to you? How did you or would you handle a situation like this?

35 Responses
  1. joanne at frutto della passione

    Wow, I have no words for you! Partly because I can’t stop giggling, but also because, well, yuck! Is this what is left? Being hit on by 70 year old men? I think I’d rather be ignored.
    Ha ha… laugh at my expense. It is ok. It is ok! 😉
    joanne at frutto della passione’s last blog post..Eurochocolate revisited

  2. Carla

    LOL, unfortunately sounds very typical (in my opinion)…it’s not you, it’s the Italian men! Once I was walking on the bridge (in CZ) to the center and this really old guy (70-ish) like literally followed me the entire time with his car, stopping traffic insisting I take a ride from him, for like 20 minutes, continuing to roll the car as I walked as I politely obliged. And then just when I thought he had driven off, he showed up on a side street…just gross and creepy…even more cuz they’re just SO old! I just get away as soon as possible in situations like that…I guess I would have just left my seat on the bus (if that was an option for you).
    I probably should have left my seat, but he was on the outside and the bus was pretty full. I’m such a chicken!

  3. yecccccccccccch. I think it’s just because you’re so dang cute. If you were plain and normal he wouldn’t bother. Sometimes I remember the gifts of being more ‘plain and normal’!!

    : )

    Seriously, that stinks, glad he finally left the bus, leaving you in peace. Yech, again. How is he not embarrassed by himself?!!?!
    I know, right? I can’t IMAGINE those moves have worked before … I don’t get it.

  4. How awful for you. I hope it didn’t ruin your day!
    No, it didn’t ruin my day, at all. I did take out a journal and start writing about what he was doing … he asked me if he could read it! LOL Boy oh, boy!!
    Scintilla’s last blog post..Phantom Neighbours.

  5. Yuck! Double yuck!!

    Don’t know what I would have done- or done differently.

    Oh, I know. Bring P with you from now on 😉
    Bring P. Bring P. GOT IT!
    My Melange’s last blog post..A Fall Stroll in Old Quebec City

  6. Gee, that Italian Viagra must be pretty potent;)
    Even though it must have been terribly awkward for you, I couldn’t help laughing out loud at your story. Too funny!
    Since I grew up in a big city, I don’t usually make eye contact with strangers so Gramps probably wouldn’t have even tried to sit near me. If he did try any funny stuff, I probably would have gotten up or told him to stop touching me. Then if he insisted I would have smashed a jar of nduja over his head 😉
    Oh that is lol funny. I’ll have to try that next time. Oh no. I’ll probably get arrested for that!!
    Milanese Masala’s last blog post..Will change come to Italy, too?

  7. While not surprising at all things like this just gross me out. I would have gotten up and moved…but then again he probably would not have bothered with me because as people tell me I come off as “aloof” and that turns people off. Thank goodness!!!
    I should have moved, Paola … you are right!!
    Paola’s last blog post..Rock a bye

  8. Haha,poor you!! sadly this story does not surprise me at all! I was on a bus in Sorrento and a middle aged man bumped into me..I was expecting a “scusa”, but what I got was a full blown kiss on the lips, then a mumbled “scusa” afterwards.
    Oh, good God. That is horrible!! EEK!
    Anait’s last blog post..La Normalita

  9. jenny


    U still got it girl!!!!! how did you manage to be so polite.
    You should have used some of your nasty words….
    I’m just a nice gal, Jen. What can I say? ha

  10. Jean

    Sorry, I had to laugh, too. Now the question is: would it have been any different if he were a young, hot guy? Don’t answer that! Seriously, I’ve had similar experiences in France. Age no barrier. Maybe these men think American women are lucky for them? You have a right to say, “Leave me alone.” Loud. Or to be nicer: “Leave me alone. I’m on my way to meet my husband.” Another man they can understand.
    Ha ha. No, I don’t think it would be different if he had been a cutie. It might have been even scarier if he had been younger. At least I could have outrun this guy!

  11. Sometimes, whatever you say, men like that will just not understand that you have zero interest in them. And, sadly, until you extract yourself from the situation (change cars on a train, hop off a bus etc) they won’t get it. That said, I find it useful in a situation like that to basically inject your husband into every sentence. Like when he asked you to spend the day with him, the answer could be “my husband wouldn’t appreciate that” or (even if it’s not true since you were meeting your cousins) say something like your husband was joining you later.
    I actually did say “I don’t think my husband would like that.” Know what he said?? “Well, he wouldn’t. But would you??” GAH!!!
    City Girl’s last blog post..Cupcake Sunday

  12. Sierra

    My experience is that strong words are needed to get guys like this to go away. It seems being polite spurs them on.
    I agree. I was polite and was obviously sending those “leave me alone” signals!

  13. Carole D

    I don’t understand why they like to humiliate themselves by acting that way. They keep trying hoping that the woman will change her mind.
    Really, they’re harmless, but, molto maleducati. Next time you travel alone make no eye contact and don’t smile.
    A price you have to pay for being such a bella ragazza.
    See… I always forget that no eye contact thing…

  14. make no eye contact.

    If someone is harmless but annoying I would tell them no thank you in a polite way. He might be 70 but Gramps clearly thinks he still has it going on.

    Unfortunately American women do have a rep for being easy, not just in Italy. If you only heard what Caribbean men say about us.

    Sometimes you will have to be a little more forceful so these men will understand you are not going to go to bed with them. Once someone starts invading my space that is not cool and I would let them know with strong language.

    If Gattuso had tried to pick me up on the bus, of course that is a different story. ha.
    Ah yes … Gattuso I could have handled. LOL
    nyc/carribbean ragazza’s last blog post..Get your parks on, part II – Doria Pamphili

  15. How outrageous (responding to your comment to my comment)! Usually men back off when you mention a husband, but clearly this one was worse than usual. It sounds like you hate not beign polite, but this really seems like a situation where some not polite firmness was appropriate. And I agree with nyc/carribeean ragazza — sometimes you just have to be more forceful – and frankly, any invasion of my personal space and i have no problem being very forceful about it. Flirting, I try to deflect semi-politely, but actual touching, I complain and complain until they leave me alone. One time this happened, someone else on the train who witnessed me getting my stuff and moving because of being intruded one was like “why are you making such a big deal, he’s just flirting with you” and I turned to him and said “you want your sister or mother treated like this?” [he didn’t have a wedding ring on] – next thing I knew he was shaming the guy who had bothered me and I made a hasty exit. LOLZ.
    It is great you left the cabin in the train. I am kicking myself for being “so nice” and not getting up. I’d have been better off standing!
    City Girl’s last blog post..Beauty Monday

  16. Vanessa

    Gross, poor you, that happens to me too. I have had to become way less polite since living in italy!

    I’ve become v impatient and what I do now when men start that kind of behaviour i pretend i can’t speak italian. Or speak really bad pidgin so they can’t carry on the conversation. I also was watching an (italian) tv programme and a couple of women were being harassed by some men. They seemed to take it all in their stride and told the men they were policewomen going to a police conference and they backed off straight away. ha ha was v funny. Someone else I know said the first phrase she learnt in italian was ‘leave me alone’. Kinda sad really….

    Once while on my bike (bicycle) there was a man on a scooter following me. So i stopped, stared him in the eye and looked him up and down like he had been doing to me (he was old and gross looking), then got out my mobile phone and pretended like I was calling the cops. Yeah, he got outta there!

    Good luck in the future coz i don’t think the old pervs will stop trying….
    Ha! I love those ideas. You think they will believe I’m a cop on my way to a conference?!?

  17. lupe

    There’s something wrong about you and it’s your lack of understanding of foreign cultures. You do not understand the fact that most cultures abroad still accept old men dating, marrying or just hitting on younger women. Is this wrong? Of course not! It has been practiced for centuries and it’s only recently that Americans and others are being brainwashed into believing that if you’re 20, your partnet can’t be older than 22. I have never been to Italy but most Latin American countries accept a big age difference between partners. It’s not uncommon to see an average 45 year old man hitting on or being hit on by a pretty 18 year old girl. Women in these cultures look at men’s qualities, not at their age.
    Ciao Lupe. I’m interested to know if you are a young married women who has been groped on a bus for the better part of an hour even though you made it clear to your suitor that you weren’t interested. I have never heard Americans say their partners can’t be more than 2 years older than them. In fact, my own father is 22 years older than my mother – quite the opposite, I’d say. Additionally, I wouldn’t have wanted an 18-year-old guy trying to get his fingers under my thigh any more than I wanted this guy, too. Regardless of his age, this man did not have qualities (read: respect for women) that I would be interested in, even if I wasn’t happily married.

  18. lupe- oh right – so it’s our job to just put up and shut up if an unattractive old man tries to grope us on a bus. I guess that’s the only way YOU’RE ever going to get any…:) Anyway if that’s how things go in “most cultures abroad” I look forward to travelling to countries outside the US (or hey maybe just staying here in Italy where I live!) when I’m in my 70s and groping young boys on public transport. Should be fun!:)

    Unfortunately, some Italian men seem to think that all foreign women are prostitutes. I’ve found that the only solution is to have a baby strapped to you at all times- having a baby completely changes the way Italian men treat you – now you’re a ‘signora’ worthy of respect!
    *So* funny you mention that some Italian men think all foreigners are prostitutes. I had this guy try to feel me up, then not realizing P was my husband, he asked him “about the little American girl who worked for him.” Gah!!!
    kataroma’s last blog post..Solids!

  19. From a single man who is a young 60 and will be pushing 70 in the not too distant future and dates and prefers women 30-55, a 70 year old married man is most likely harmless and just flirting. Dont be so immature, uptight and prudish, broaden your horizons. Of course touching or getting in your space is unacceptable and just rude and deserves getting up and leaving.
    I thought that the European Italian women were more sophisticated than all this bashing of an old man….
    Are you saying that I am not sophisticated because I don’t want a man (at any age, as I’ve said in other comments) feeling me up on the bus? I think we might just have to agree to disagree here, because I don’t think I am 1) immature 2) uptight or 3) prudish for not wanting a stranger to have his hands all over me when I am on the bus. It is my right to not want a man of any age to grab my ass for the better part of an hour because he wants to … what? “Flirt?” Harmless flirting can be done with looks and words, there is no excuse for him to be all over me or any other woman who has said no.

  20. D. Reiser

    I have to agree with Lupe, and call Kataroma out on Americentric/individualistic thinking (whether he/she is American or not). The guy just wanted to have sex with you, what’s wrong with that? Women play hard to get all the time, and aggressive men often get what they want by refusing to take no for an answer… many women are actually aroused by such persistence.

    Non-American cultures don’t place such a huge difference on age differences and aesthetic appearances. Sex is a lot more simple in other places, and people are much less threatened by the possibility of intercourse with a stranger. If you know what the typical sex life of an Italian woman was like, you’d experience a full-out Victorian shock.

    Your problem is that you sat there and let it continue. You should have left your seat.
    You are right, I should not have let it continue and that *was* the biggest issue. However, I have to disagree when you say non-American cultures aren’t interested in age differences or appearances. Italians I know think it is creepy for a 70-80 year old man to hit on a 30-year old girl in such an aggressive manner. He might have “just wanted to have sex with me,” but I was obviously not reacting to his advances (and not in the flirty way that “says” I WANT IT. Also, I know many Italians who are *more* concerned with what someone looks like before he/she will date them than Americans are.

  21. salina

    In 1993, when I worked in Italy (I was then 59), we American women were all advised that it was normal to be pinched by Italian men when on a train. We were told to just move and ignore it. I was and I did. In 2006 when I visted the Amalfi Coast the 40-ish, married owner of our rental apartment, within three minutes of our arrival, said to my much younger companion in perfect English, “I want to sleep with you”. Since then on various travel sites, I have noticed that several people have commented on this phenomenon, particularly on the Amalfi Coast. I think the advice given is correct – ignore it and move, if possible. It’s a game they play and, since Italian mothers have told their sons forever that they are handsome, charming, and can do no wrong at all, it is to be expected. The men in Ravello also sit around in the square, drinking small cups of very strong coffee and gossiping once or twice every day – I’ll bet the subject of how many female tourists were approached is #1 or #2 on the list of things discussed. Think what they’d have to say if someone actually came through for them; I’m sure, with the many, many sales of “Under the Tuscan Sun”, there are those who have! And to those women, you WILL have your 15 minutes of fame, over small cups of very strong coffee!
    Ha. I wonder if it *is* worse along the Amalfi Coast … that is interesting!!

  22. Hi Cherrye,
    I’m enjoying your blog! As this story concerns, I think you should have answered with a loud voice, so as other people around you could hear: “You are a kind old man, but please stop putting your hands on me, or I will call your nursing home!» I think this would have cooled his hot spirits! 🙂
    Happily that younger Italian men are not any more like that!

    LOVE that, Monica! Will have to practice that for (if there is a) next time!

    .-= Monica´s last blog ..Una Tigre con gli artigli spuntati =-.

  23. You said: “Now I just have to figure out how to say that – in a non-polite way – in Italian!”

    Wll, I guess “Tenga le mani a posto, oppure se le ficchi in quel posto!” 🙂

    Monica! I just got in trouble for repeating this in the library!! ha ha

    .-= Monica´s last blog ..Una Tigre con gli artigli spuntati =-.

  24. Monica

    Cherrye, you said:
    «Monica! I just got in trouble for repeating this in the library!! ha ha»
    Oh, I can figure that out! Hahahaha!

    Ha! Yea, P was like “WHO are you talking to??”

  25. Marcia

    Hmm, my experience recently has been that this happens via the internet (Facebook), as well as physically in real life! lol

  26. Hi Cherrye, I would like to apologize on behalf of all Italian men. I hope that the younger generation is different. I grew up and completed high school in Southern Italy (Calabria). I now live in Canada.

    I believe it is a generational thing and some of your readers have indicated so. Some (I do not believe we should generalize) man of that generation, do not seem to understand the meaning of “buon costume”. I do not believe that they think that American girls are all prostitutes. However, they may think that they are easier to pick up than Italian women.

    I trust that things are changing somewhat as a lady friend of mine just came back from a trip to Italy and she told me that she was expecting aggressive behaviour by the Italian men in the south but she found that it was those of the north who actually misbehaved.

    I do not think it makes any difference if this type of behaviour happens in Milano, Venice, Rome, Sorrento o Taormina as I believe bad manners are bad manners irrespective of nationality, region, ethnic background or age.

    As for what one could do to make them stop, a firm “stop bothering me” in a loud voice, should be sufficient to embarrass them as it would attract the attention of others. A polite response usually does not work, as it may be viewed as flirting and/or a sign of encouragement (hard to believe but that is why they do not stop).

    I appreciate your posts and learning new things about Italy all the time (both good and not so good).


  27. Blondie

    Italian men are Pervs. Te first time I went I was 14 and I thought it would be a nice day to wear my new short shorts.not a good idea. At first men
    Would come up to me an ask me if I wanted a drink(I was 14!) then once u got into crowded areas they would feel you up. Everyday if go into this shop this man (mid 20s) would say chow Bella! (hello beautiful).You have to face it no matter what age most(not all) think Italian men are straight foreword and mostly perverts thinking european girls are easy they don’t even care if u are chubby or skinny they just want to get in your pants!

  28. Mike

    I don’t like a petty thief! When my smokin hot Mexican wife and I visit Italia this summer, if she is hit on like this, my 30 years of martial arts and 220 lb Sicilian frame are gonna snap a few fingers!

  29. pedro



  30. Gil

    No men problems, only an ancient Chinese lady at Piazza Santa Croce in Florence. Had to have her hands on my chest for a picture. She mistook me for a native Italian.

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