“Italy’s Casanovas Hit Where It Hurts” the headline declares, and where it hurts is in the wallet and by extension in the pants. The European financial crisis has claimed many victims– from the scores of unemployed who have no hope of finding a job, to the people who can no longer afford to put a roof over their family’s heads– but the ones hit the hardest? The ones whose plight tugs most violently at the heartstrings? Italian men who in good times were able to keep dozens of women in the rotation and now can’t even afford one measly mistress. Who previously spent lunch eating a “tasty treat” and now have only a tasty treat, no wink-wink, to look forward to. They are the Casanovas– strike that, ex-Casanovas of Italy and this is their story.
One consequence of the economic downturn that has gone largely unreported is the struggle Italian men now face to woo women with the care and attention – and the financial outlay – they were once renowned for…With their country still in recession, with unemployment climbing above 12% and with the cost of living soaring, the Latin lover has had to rein in his appetite. The traditional kept mistress, secretly hidden away in her fully paid-up flat, and lavished with furs and jewels has been consigned to history. “Who can afford a double life today?” asked journalist Terry Marocco from the Italian news magazine Panorama. “Think about it – two Christmases, two apartments, two dinners, double holiday – it’s impossible,” she laughed. “Italian men are now so hard up they’re having to ask their lovers to share the bill – I know one mistress who had been taken to a hotel for a romantic break – but when they were leaving, the man asked her: ‘Can we go half and half?'” Discreet enquiries around Milan suggested there are certainly fewer, shall we say, “lunchtime visits” to hotels these days. According to surveys by an Italian casual dating website, Casanova has dispensed with the flowery niceties of wining and dining and is cutting far more quickly to the chase. “Italian men are becoming less romantic and less gentlemanly,” complained Mariangela Chimienti from the Italian online company Cdate. “Before the crisis, a man would ask a woman to dinner, would buy her flowers before he…” she trailed off sensitively. “Nowadays he just invites her for a coffee and a walk in the park,” she added…
In her sumptuous Milan apartment, Roberta Ribali, a psychiatrist who specialises in men’s sexual problems, absent-mindedly stroked the plush red velvet of her therapist’s couch. “For the older Italian man, this sudden lack of money is a tragedy,” she said sorrowfully. “You know there is a cheaper option for the older Casanova,” she said. “On the internet, with just a little money you can buy a nice friend. Well, she’s a prostitute but she can become a friend, and you don’t need to buy her furs and jewels like the traditional mistress.”
In the centre of Milan, the pavement cafes are still packed with groups of men taking their aperitivo after work and eyeing up the neighbouring tables of women. Andrea and Fillipo, looking slightly stiff in their black business suits, listened in envy to the boasts of their friend Jacapo, who in his designer T-shirt and combat pants looked decidedly cool and confident. “He works for an oil company,” Fillipo explained to me, “he basically has a girl in every country but it’s cheap for him because he only stays two nights in each place so he doesn’t need to buy presents and dinners.” I patted his shoulder comfortingly. “So you’ve just the one girl?” I asked him sympathetically. “Yeah,” he muttered, “I don’t get paid much so…” He looked miserably into the distance. “But at Christmas, maybe I’ll get a bonus?” he said hopefully.
If you’re thinking now might be the right time to start up some sort of charity for these men, some sort of fund the contributions of which go toward keeping their mistresses in the lifestyle they’ve become accustomed to, you’d be right. We just pray it’s not too late.