Love & Partnership

Dating in Italy: what to expect when looking for love

Learn how to navigate the world of dating in Italy, including how to meet singles, what to expect when it comes to local dating etiquette, and more.

Italy dating
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By Alicia Walker

Updated 8-1-2024

Romance is always in the air in the land of Romeo and Juliet, making dating in Italy an adventure right from the start. That said, looking for love as an expat can be challenging; especially when trying to understand the local dating culture and language in your new home. But fear not, as this article will arm you with all you need to dive into the dating pool, including:

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An overview of dating in Italy

After moving to Italy, you will soon discover that the dating experience in this beautiful country is somewhat similar to that of other European nations. However, like anywhere in the world, cultures differ and there are some unique aspects to Italian dating that are important to be aware of. For starters, Italian culture is quite flirtatious – that’s right, we all know the stereotypes!

A happy couple kissing and showing affection in public
Photo: Cassie Lopez/Unsplash

But it is, indeed, true that light-hearted banter and sincere compliments are the norms here when men and women find each other attractive. Kissing, holding hands, and different types of physical affection also play a big part in Italian dating. So get ready to witness a lot of PDA!

Flirtations aside, you will find it common for Italian men and women to take their time to get to know each other before committing to a relationship. And because the family plays such an intrinsic role in Italian culture, parents often involve themselves in their children’s dating lives.

Declining marriage rates

Although family and tradition are significant to Italians, marriage is on a downward trend. Indeed, in 2019, the number of couples choosing to tie the knot fell to the lowest point in five years. According to data from 2017, most single people (36.5%) decided not to marry because they did not find the right partner. That said, 17% of individuals who live with their partners simply don’t believe in marriage.

Generally speaking, dating as an expat in Italy shouldn’t be too dissimilar to what you would expect to find in other countries. And whether you are living in Rome (Roma) or Milan (Milano), you will find many options for connecting with someone you have things in common with. Dating is also a great way to meet new people while enjoying this beautiful country.

How to meet people in Italy

The ways couples meet in Italy are very similar to those in other European countries. For instance, teenagers begin socializing with their peers at school, within their neighborhood, or through social activities and local clubs. Meanwhile, older generations tend to move within their friendship groups and larger social networks. That said, there are other ways to meet potential love interests.

Online dating

As with almost everywhere now, online dating is a popular method of meeting someone in Italy. The number of dating website users in the country is expected to reach 3.8 million by 2027, with the market growing from 6.1% in 2023 to 6.4% by 2027.

Dating websites versus dating apps

Nearly all dating websites have evolved to include an easy-to-use app. This means that whichever site (or sites) you choose to sign up to, you will be able to toggle between the two platforms. Unsurprisingly, dating apps have become very popular among busy internationals on the go, as they allow them to match with other users through their phones or tablets.

A young girl scrolling through potential matches on a dating app on her mobile phone
Photo: Tim Mossholder/Unsplash

Some apps also use location-based technology to pinpoint exactly where you are at any given time and find other nearby singles. When you have a match, you can then either pass or connect. However, it is worth bearing in mind that often, you can’t go back once you have passed on someone: therefore, it is wise to scroll with care.

In contrast, dating websites allow you to have more scope when it comes to searching and viewing other users. Whereas apps are geared more toward making rapid decisions, websites enable you to investigate further and dig deeper. As a result, they tend to be more popular among those searching for more serious relationships, particularly the older generations.

Popular dating websites and apps

Some of the most popular dating websites, which also have apps, in Italy include:

  • Badoo – their open-to-chat function allows you to meet friends and potential dates easily
  • Coffee Meets Bagel – a dating site with a large active user base that enables you to meet friends or lovers
  • Lovepedia – an online chatting and dating site where both sides must ‘heart’ to chat
  • Meetic – founded in France, this is one of Europe’s most widely used dating sites
  • OkCupid – this matches couples according to their personality compatibility
  • Tinder – the original ‘swipe left/ swipe right’ app that is synonymous with hookups but also finding love

Notably, some dating apps do not have a website, such as Italy Social: Meet Italians, which is a popular option for dating in Italy.

Meetups

Another popular way to meet new people in Italy is to join Meetup groups in your local area. Through the website – and app – you can find numerous events throughout the country, particularly in larger cities and towns, that bring together singles and those with similar interests.

A same-sex couple flirting while drinking red wine
Photo: Andrea Migliarini/Getty Images

These provide members with a fun and safe way to meet new people and develop friendships and relationships. And because the groups often cater to specific age ranges and sexual preferences, members know what to expect when attending the events.

Meeting through friends

Many Italians profess the old-fashioned way of meeting new people through friends as one of the best ways to date in Italy. Of course, this comes with the benefit of being set up by people who know you and what you like. In fact, it is common to ask colleagues or friends if they know anyone you might hit it off with. In Italy, meeting for an aperitivo is a quick and easy way to see if you gel and want to move on to dinner.

Speed dating

This rapid matchmaking process brings together singles for quick-fire conversation to see if anything clicks within a short time. Although less popular in Italy than in places like the United States (US), it does exist. Event organizing sites such as Eventbrite and Skiddle are good portals for finding out if any speed dating events are happening in your neighborhood.

However, before you start your dating journey in Italy, you might want to check out these helpful articles:

You might also want to learn how to ask someone out in Italian before you begin your dating adventures.

Dating etiquette in Italy

Generally speaking, Italians are often effusive, affectionate, and passionate. They typically aren’t shy with their compliments either – so get ready for some serious flattery. Below are some of the more common scenarios you may find yourself in while dating in Italy.

A typical dating scenario

Although online dating is a popular way to meet new people in Italy, it is very common to look for love the good old-fashioned way; especially compared to some other European countries. Bars and restaurants, clubs and festivals, communal squares and parks, and the workplace are all typical places to engage with potential suitors.

A couple enjoying a casual drink at a trattoria in Verona
Verona, Italy, (Photo: Bjorn Agerbeek/Unsplash)

Given that Italian culture places a strong emphasis on food and wine, a likely first date activity will center on having a drink or casual meal at a café or trattoria. And because Italians are generally quite romantic with their wooing, a picnic in a park or watching the sunset from a hilltop are other possibilities. Interestingly, family members often task themselves with matchmaking couples and will arrange drinks and dinner meetings.

The outgoing nature of many Italians means that both men and women are typically quite bold when approaching someone they find attractive. In turn, they are also more receptive to being approached. Flirting is common in Italy, and playful repartee is part of the fun of being out in a social environment.

Dating behavior

Italians are very often warm and expressive. Therefore, physical touch, such as holding hands or touching the arm, wouldn’t be unusual on a first date. This may take some getting used to if you come from a culture that is generally less tactile. And a typical Italian greeting is a kiss on both cheeks, which they call il bacetto.

A couple enjoying a date and taking selfies at Piazza Navona in Rome
Piazza Navona, Rome, Italy (Photo: Catherine Ziegler/Getty Images)

Generally speaking, Italian men are raised to be chivalrous. Therefore, it is still prevalent for them to pull out a woman’s chair and open her car door; even though, of course, times are changing. The atmosphere of a first date in Italy is typically relaxed and romantic, with conversations about hobbies, work, travel experiences, and building a connection.

Because of the important role of the family in Italian life, you shouldn’t be surprised if your date often speaks about their siblings, parents, and other relatives. It is also common to split the bill on a date in Italy, and you can generally expect that men and women will share the cost.

What to wear on a date

Because Italians have a keen sense of fashion, dressing up is always a safe way to go when dating a local. Indeed, almost any Italian man or woman will scrub up nicely for their date, so it’s wise to meet them halfway.

People generally like to look stylish and well-groomed. Of course, it helps to find out in advance what you will be doing on your date so you can prepare your outfit accordingly. For instance, if you are going to be on a cobbled street, wear a block heel or espadrille rather than a stiletto. And forget the socks if you’ll be sipping Champagne on the beach.

That said, even if you know you are just going on a picnic, your Italian date will likely still dress to impress. Therefore, if you’re going casual, ensure you are well-ironed and accessorized as you can bet they will be.

Moving into a relationship

Ordinarily, Italians tend to take things slowly in terms of relationship progression. A second date will likely be an opportunity to spend a longer amount of time together. Cooking together or making dinner for your date is a popular activity as Italians adore their food. Going for a walk or a drive is another good option as it provides lots of time for conversation. Again, holding hands and kissing are very likely on the second date. Discussions may also get deeper and more personal in nature.

Meeting the parents

Although meeting the parents can happen at any time, the importance of family in Italy means that it may happen sooner than you would expect. This can be within the first few months of dating and generally occurs as soon as the couple feels they have become serious and exclusive. Meeting the parents is often a way of showing the other partner they feel strongly about them, too. Therefore, you should consider this a significant event. Given the supreme focus on family in Italian culture, it will be important that they approve of you, too.

A cosy shot of a couple living together and cuddled up on the sofa with their cat and dog
Photo: Sarandy Westfall/Unsplash

Although Italians are often openly flirtatious, they tend to date only one person seriously at a time. Moving in together after dating for a few months is more common for couples in their mid-thirties and older. However, younger couples tend to date for longer before taking this big step. Many couples see living together as a good way to build a strong foundation for a life together and make sure they are compatible before committing to a long-term union. Notably, it is also common for adult children to live with their parents until their late twenties or early thirties.

As mentioned, Italians are waiting longer to tie the knot nowadays, and will often live together for years before doing so. In 2019, Italy’s average age for getting married was 32.8 years for women and 35.9 years for men. That’s around four years older for both sexes than in 1990.

The role of the family in dating

After you have leaped over the first family meeting hurdle, you will likely progress to spending a fair amount of time in their presence. Although family relationships are already a priority for most in the Bel Paese, many Italians claim they wish to spend even more time with their loved ones.

It is still traditional in Italy for a man to ask a bride’s father before proposing. However, as time moves on, it is more common for couples to become engaged and then announce it to their parents afterward. This will depend greatly on the couple and the parents’ views as rules become more fluid with changing attitudes towards progressive partnerships.

Useful resources

  • My Foreign Half – offers insight into 6 myths about dating an Italian
  • Similar – provides statistics on the top-ranking dating apps and trends happening in Italy
  • Culture Atlas – offers further insight into gender roles within Italian families