December 3, 2023 | Rome, Italy

Bagging fish

By |2018-03-21T18:20:58+01:00March 1st, 2006|Lifestyle Archive|
Two dogs make a right.

he following article contains the most useful pet information you will ever read.

My dog’s name is my secret weapon.

Example: After several days (weeks, months) of self-imposed exile where the only dialogue I have with the outside world is via email or telepathy (thus effectively excommunicating myself from many friendships and former flirtations), I walk my dog down any street in Italy, deliberately calling to her, “Bella, vieni qui!”

The results are almost invariably the same and come in three flavors.

1. The annoyed Italian girl who is unhappy that a cute American girl is shouting the equivalent of “hey hot stuff, come here.” I usually learn new Italian words.

2. The happy-go-lucky pedestrian who laughs and says, “Si chiama Bella? È giusto, è veramente bella.” Conversation quickly follows: Dogs, hair, citizenship, soccer teams. After which I know I definitely have a new friend.

3. The Dude on the corner who takes the word Bella as an opportunity to attempt the following pick-up.

“Bella. Si, giusto, è bella come la padrona.” This is often followed by my personal favorite “Lei morde?” Being a strict follower of the formal Lei in conversation, I respond that yes, I definitely do bite. Note: This can encourage slight begging for my phone number.

The point is that having an animal can be the ideal method to making friends in Italy, and anywhere for that matter. This is not just limited to cute and aptly named terriers. In fact, if I were in dire need of a new friend or a date, I would simply borrow Charlotte’s pug Drexall (pugs are the preferred choice of men) and walk by any soccer gear store. “Un carlino, che carino!”

I used to be annoyed by the numbers of people who stopped me just to com-pliment Drexall while ignoring Bella and her cute growls. But I now value the little beast, and use him for the guy-magnet that he is. As a team, Drexall and Bella are unstoppable. Their cuteness works both on and off the leash.

“Oh no, can someone please help me catch the carlino? He’s very fast. Thank you. Wow, you are strong.”

Canines are not the only species that can help you on your quest to improve your social life. A bag of goldfish will endear you to children. If you’re a man with goldfish, rest assured all kinds of women will find you cute and quirky. Fish are an excellent question-inviters, getting you off the hook, so to speak. “Come mai un pesce in un sacchetto?” There are limits. Don’t stand around thrusting your bag at random women. As for being a woman with a bag of fish, don’t go there. That falls under the category of Crazy Women, the kind that roam around in nightgowns at 10 a.m. arguing with fountains.

Cats and bunnies are by far the best cuteness weapons. Walked with the appropriate harnesses (similar to one Bella wears, that doesn’t choke her), a cat or bunny on a leash is heart-melting. “Che dolce!” Everyone will want to take photos and befriend you because you exude niceness and benevolence in a violent age.

Snakes, iguanas, chameleons, and any lizard can be ideal fashion accessories — “Is that real? Wow, it matches your shoes!”

More importantly, snakes are good repellent, especially for over-eager gentleman suitors. There’s no better way to get rid of a guy than asking him to hold your snake. I’ve never owned a snake (I don’t like the idea of feeding it), but I occasionally borrow Sabrina’s.

Potential Problems 1: You love pets but don’t own one.

Solution: Do as I do and borrow from a friend, ensuring that your friend will love you forever for your generosity with their animal. And you will love that pet forever once he/she starts meeting people for you. My friend Chris cushioned a heart wrenching break-up by borrowing Bella for four days. During that period, he met seven new friends. A few months later, he used Bella on his quest for not just a hook-up but a new girlfriend. He and Jessica are now considering getting a dog together.

Potential Problem 2: You don’t have any friends with animals. In fact, you don’t have any friends at all.

Solution: Go to the local park and start playing with the most easygoing dogs, the ones that sniff you politely. Watch what happens. You won’t be disappointed. Everyone, including contesse and camerieri, walk their dogs in the park. You’ll inevitably meet someone interesting who can’t resist a fellow animal lover. And this is a money back guarantee.

— See Erica Firpo’s guidebook series at

About the Author:

Erica Firpo wrote The American's pet advice column from 2006 to 2009. She is a freelance travel and culture writer who lives in Rome with husband, daughter and faithful sidekick Bella. She has worked for Fodor's Rome edition, Luxe City Guides and National Geographic Travel, as well as writing art reviews for Zing and other U.S.-based magazines.