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Black Women Who Travel To Italy For Love

Black Ambrosia

Well-Known Member
‘In Italy I Kept Meeting Guys’: The Black Women Who Travel for Love
By Tariro Mzezewa
Feb. 14, 2020

Despite Italy’s troubles with racism, African-American women are traveling to the country for love, and finding it.



Italy, a country known for its language of love and for its men who publicly shower overtures on women like a centuries-old art form, is often associated with romantic encounters of the kind portrayed in the movies, from “Roman Holiday” to “The Lizzie McGuire Movie.” So some black women ask, why shouldn’t it be the same for them?

Latrese Williams is one such black traveler. When Ms. Williams goes out in Chicago or pretty much anywhere else in the United States, she said, she often feels ignored by men who seem to barely register her existence. But when she walks into a room in Italy, all eyes are on her — and to her, that’s a good thing. These polar reactions occur, she said, because she is black.

“Even though I would behave in the same way at home and abroad, in Chicago I felt invisible,” Ms. Williams said in her home in the Monti neighborhood of Rome. “But in Italy I kept meeting guys.”

In November, she moved in with her Italian boyfriend, whom she met on Tinder in Rome.

In recent years, Italy has become known for widely publicized episodes of racism against African migrants or dark-skinned people perceived as migrants, and even racial abuse toward Italy’s own black soccer players. It may be surprising that there is a steady stream of black women who travel to Italy in search of amore.

Perhaps less surprising is that, amid the new crop of travel companies catering to black travelers and black women, in particular, there’s a growing group of tour providers, blogs, Instagram accounts and Facebook groups that encourage black women to travel to Italy to find love. Unlike traditional tour operators, companies like Black Girl Travel and Venus Affect provide dating advice and assistance finding a romantic partner, along with sightseeing.

Online, Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr posts show photos of black women with Italian men or black women with white men in Italy; Facebook groups and YouTube videos contain lengthy discussions about Italian men loving black women. Many of the posts are tagged with the word “swirl,” a popular term describing a black person and a white person in a relationship.


Latrese Williams and Giacomo Cannas met on Tinder in Rome, Italy.
Self-love before love
Fleacé Weaver, the founder of Black Girl Travel, said that she felt early on that African-American women “do better in Italy,” so, in 2006, after traveling to the country several times, she moved to Rome from Los Angeles and created Black Girl Travel, which offers romantic and nonromantic tours.

At the time, she felt that she was filling an empty spot in the travel market.

“No one was servicing us doing tours that were targeted solely to African-American females,” she said. “In fact, when we started, everyone in the industry was telling us it was impossible to do. Now you look ahead 13 years and we have basically inspired a whole subculture of international travelers.”

Ms. Weaver describes Black Girl Travel as a concierge and private club rather than a travel or dating agency, but her clients consider it to be both. In more than a dozen interviews, women who have been on her tours called her “the dream weaver” and the “black woman’s Italian love guru,” thanks to her ability to connect people and help women love themselves and find romantic love. Black Girl Travel has welcomed more than a thousand black women from across the world to Italy, Ms. Weaver said.

She insists that her main goal is to encourage black women to love themselves first. In addition to the sightseeing, “I also always work in girlfriend talk time where we stop as a group and we talk about like, ‘Why do you think your life is not going in the direction you want to go in? Why do you think that you’re having problems with men?’”

Ms. Williams, 44, who felt ignored in the United States, had studied abroad in Germany during graduate school and recalls visiting Rome and hating it at the time. She went home to Illinois to establish her career and, she thought, a relationship. Twenty years later, frustrated with her job and her romantic life, she booked a Bella Italia tour with Black Girl Travel. The tour cost about $2,500, excluding airfare, and visited popular cities and landmarks. There were about 50 other black, primarily American, women on the 10-day trip, and at its end Ms. Williams was seriously considering the idea of looking for love in Italy.

Three years later, Ms. Williams went on a second tour with Ms. Weaver and each time she’d return to Rome she would see Ms. Weaver and seek advice about dating. Many women who go on the Bella Italia tour return for Ms. Weaver’s Roman Holiday tour, a more personal experience that involves staying with Ms. Weaver while she helps with all aspects of dating. (The tour is named for the 1953 Audrey Hepburn-Gregory Peck movie.) She manages her guests’ dating profiles on apps like Tinder, and “weeds out” the bad eggs. When a client goes on a coffee or dinner date, Ms. Weaver might be at a table nearby, observing, taking notes and planning to give feedback to the client afterward.


Fleacé Weaver in the Ticinese district of Milan. Ms. Weaver founded Black Girl Travel.
Fleacé has an innate ability to spot quality, Ms. Williams said. “She knows if a guy is running game or if he’s quality and she can figure out his motives from jump. She’s spectacular at filtering.”

Venus Affect, created by the celebrity wedding planner and event designer Diann Valentine in 2014, works exclusively with wealthy women and matches them with men who are well-off. Seventy-five percent of Ms. Valentine’s clients are black; the rest are Hispanic or Middle Eastern, she said. In 2018, Ms. Valentine’s company was the focus of a short-lived Bravo show called “To Rome for Love.”

“As black women, we are told in the U.S. that we are too aggressive and too bossy and too loud and all these negative stereotypes we hear all the time,” she said. “But you put us in Italy and we’re perfect because you know who else is bossy and loud and aggressive? Italian mothers.”

Not all amore
But what these companies are selling — amore and la dolce vita — is at odds with the everyday experiences of a number of black people who live or travel frequently in Italy. They point out that this is a country where populist politicians like Matteo Salvini have campaigned on the argument that illegal migration from Africa poses a threat; in 2013 the country’s first black minister had bananas thrown at her. According to data from the International Organization for Migration, between 2014 and the first six months of 2017, Italy had a 600 percent increase in the number of potential sex-trafficking victims arriving in the country by sea. In 2017, the majority of those victims were black, from Nigeria.

“The whole idea of marketing Italy to black women as a place where they can find love is so problematic for so many reasons,” said Moni Ufomata, who is black and has traveled to Italy and runs the blog Miles and Braids, about her adventures. “I loved Italy because of the food, the monuments, the history. That’s the stuff that should be the goal of your travels.”

Ms. Ufomata said the companies also seem to be promoting simplified and perhaps dangerous stereotypes about black women, Italian men and Italian culture.

“I don’t think that we should promote this idea that black women have a hard time finding love in America, so they should go to a place where men love them for their complexion,” she said.

Italy is also not a place where people are willing to have a conversation about race, according to Francesca Moretti, 31, a black Italian contributing writer at AfroItalian Souls, a magazine that focuses on stories about black people in Italy.

“Living here is not like in the movies or the postcards, especially for black people,” Ms. Moretti said. “If you have the money, maybe you can live some kind of Italian dream, but it still won’t be the dolce vita.”

A numbers game
For decades, the misleading idea that black women in America are the least likely people to find love has been the topic of books, movies, television specials and countless news articles. In 2017, the Pew Research Center found that black men are twice as likely as black women to have a spouse of a different race or ethnicity.

And a widely reported OkCupid study of American users of the dating app found that in 2014, most men on the site rated black women as less attractive than women of other races and ethnicities. The sense of being undervalued or not admired and pursued by men as a black woman in the United States is what Ms. Valentine and Ms. Weaver are capitalizing on.

“Dating in America as a black woman is like playing musical chairs,” Ms. Williams said. “If there’s 10 people and six chairs, somebody’s going to have to sit on the floor. There aren’t enough black men for black women in America.”

In fact, although interracial marriage has increased for all Americans, black men and women still marry each other most often; less than 10 percent of black men and 5 percent of black women were married to a spouse of another race in 2010, according to census data.

Another number often cited in the conversation about black women finding love — and also criticized as misinterpreted — is a number that was popularized in a 2009 ABC News/Nightline broadcast titled “Single, Black, Female,” which said that 42 percent of black women in America have never been married, twice the percentage of white women who have never married.

By going through census data and conducting their own research, Ivory A. Toldson, a professor at Howard University School of Education and a research analyst for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, and Bryant Marks, a psychology professor at Morehouse College and faculty associate at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, found that although the “42 percent” number is accurate, it has been oversimplified and misinterpreted to fit into a negative narrative about black love.

“The often-cited figure of 42 percent of black women never marrying includes all black women 18 and older,” Mr. Toldson said, “but raising the age in an analysis eliminates age groups we don’t really expect to be married and gives a more accurate estimate of true marriage rates.”

Be careful of the ‘ciao bellas’
In many cases, even as black women search for love in Italy, they fear negative interactions with Italian men.

A recent search for “Italy” in a handful of Facebook groups for black women travelers, each with thousands of members, shows that some version of one question is asked every few months: “Is Italy safe for black women?” Most women say it is safe, but to be careful of the men. (“Be careful of those ciao bella’s, they’re not always as friendly as they seem,” one commenter wrote).

Many share stories of being solicited by men who assumed they were prostitutes because they were black. One woman said this happened while she was on a street corner waiting for friends outside of Rome. Another said it happened in a store in Naples. Another said while studying abroad she was walking to an exam and was approached by a man who simply asked “how much?”

Black women who move to Italy for love say they have been told that they are being fetishized by Italian men intrigued by black culture and physical features, but not interested in understanding more about being black or really connecting with the women as individuals.

Gichele Adams, a black woman who lives in Milan with an Italian partner and runs the short term rental company The Ghost Host Retreats, said that argument is a tool to shame black women from dating outside their race.

“You’re trying to downgrade the value of women of color when you say the only reason Italian men are attracted to them is because they are black,” Ms. Adams said. “When you’re attracted to a certain kind of person, you’re attracted to a certain kind of person.”

But Alicia Rozario, a black woman who lives in Seattle and is traveling to Milan for a month in April to decide if she wants to move permanently, said she thinks some skepticism is valid. “I’m well aware of the fact that Italians are intrigued because we’re black — there’s a little bit of exoticism with that, so you have to filter like when you date anywhere else,” she said.

An emotional availability
Among the reasons the women said they found love more easily in Italy is that Italian culture encourages men to be up front about their emotions, something men in the United States and other countries are discouraged from doing, Ms. Adams and others said.

Three years ago, after moving to Paris with a partner, Ms. Adams found herself unhappy in her relationship, so she decided to go on a solo trip to Italy for a few days. While in Milan, she met Matteo La Cognata, a man who spent two days showing her the city. Before she left Milan for Venice and Rome, he invited her to stay for good. She thought he was “completely crazy” she said, and passed.

When she returned to Paris, she realized that she didn’t want to be there anymore. She ended her relationship and flew to Milan. She met Mr. La Cognatas family, moved in with him. They now have a 2-year-old son and are expecting their second child in the spring. The directness of Mr. La Cognata’s approach was at first perplexing, but ultimately, refreshing, Ms. Adams said.

“There isn’t a lot of hesitation, whereas in the U.S., people are always trying you out, even if they like you,” she said.

Mr. La Cognata said that although he has always been more attracted to non-Italian women, he didn’t “have any particular thought about African-American women” until he met Ms. Adams.

“I fell in love with her smile and the happiness that I saw in her eyes,” Mr. La Cognata said. “She’s a beautiful woman, so I was obviously struck by that as well. Over time I was also attracted to her sense of independence, strength of character.”

He added that they do get comments from Italians who assume Ms. Adams is a migrant from Brazil or Africa who somehow does not belong in Italy. The comments, he added, are worse when she is out alone.

“Luckily I tend to not give too much attention to these idiots,” he said.
 

Crackers Phinn

Either A Blessing Or A Lesson.
I vividly remember when women on this site were very blase about telling single women that if they couldn't find eligible black men where they were at that they should move. These women just followed the advice except without the black man part.
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She ended her relationship and flew to Milan. She met Mr. La Cognata’s family, moved in with him. They now have a 2-year-old son and are expecting their second child in the spring. The directness of Mr. La Cognata’s approach was at first perplexing, but ultimately, refreshing, Ms. Adams said.

To move from the U.S. to Italy to just end up a baby mama tho.
 

Chrismiss

Well-Known Member
One of my friends did this. She says she’s married to the guy but i just dont know. She spends more time here at her aunt’s house than in Italy. He stays over there. Its only been about 2-3 years since the marriage but shes been in the states for at least the last 6 months and will be here for another 3-4. Its a very mysterious situation.
 

Black Ambrosia

Well-Known Member
One of my friends did this. She says she’s married to the guy but i just dont know. She spends more time here at her aunt’s house than in Italy. He stays over there. Its only been about 2-3 years since the marriage but shes been in the states for at least the last 6 months and will be here for another 3-4. Its a very mysterious situation.
What explanation does she give when people ask?
 

Chrismiss

Well-Known Member
I would definitely be concerned if my friend was in that situation and leaving cryptic responses.

I was/am very concerned. Her mother was beside herself when she learned of her plans to marry this guy. I believe she met the guy on Tinder. I asked her to send me her address in Italy but she never did it. I’m just glad that she’s spending more time here than in Italy. I’m pretty sure there’s more to the story.
 
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