27 January 2008

“Posso offrirLe il caffe?”

American men, listen up! There’s a lovely custom here in Venice which you would do well to adopt in the U.S., where you tend to be a bit careless of the fairer sex sometimes. Every time I receive this small tribute, my heart sings.

Sometimes when a lone woman enters a bar or a pasticceria and is served her espresso or cappuccino, a gentleman of any age nearby will say to her, "Posso offrirLe il caffe?" He means, “Will you permit me to pay for your coffee?” He always uses the formal form of address, sometimes even with a slight bow. He may do this just as he pays his own tab and is about to depart. Sometimes a young man will make a very cute excuse for his offer: "All this change is so heavy in my pocket, see how it's ruining my suit? You would be doing me a favor..."

This charming gesture only means the gentleman finds the lady attractive and he wants to tell her so. Nothing more is expected of the lady – no tedious small talk, no fending off a tired come-on line or leering gaze. Just the acknowledgment of the gentleman’s kindness with a smile and a "grazie."

Isn’t that nice?