You Had Me At “Ciao Bella!”

Picture me: in Italy. Alone. For three months. I was so excited to be traveling solo for the first time in my life, but I was also a little bit scared! (I’m a huge extrovert.) It’s way more fun to do things with friends, so I turned to Tinder to make friends while abroad. And I thought, hey, a free Vespa ride around the Colosseum wouldn’t be so bad either… (Lizzie McGuire movie, anyone?)

First things first, I made a profile. I wrote my bio: @carnivorr. Food writer. Traveler. Pastry chef.

And then I chose pictures I thought best represented me… me eating food, me drinking wine, me with a famous chef… you get the picture. Vegans need not apply.

I started swiping and began laughing when I saw the pictures these Italians used on their profiles. So many speedos! And so many guys are using pictures of food as their profile pictures. (Did he actually make this tortellini himself?? Swiping right!)

…It’s a match!

Keep reading to hear about a few of my favorite Tinder dates.

Date 1: Florence

My first date was in Florence. At a time when I was feeling super homesick, I met a boy...and his two best girl friends. (How I missed my girl friends back home!)

But let’s rewind… Homesickness had just begun to set in, when at one of the loneliest points in my trip, I matched with Paolo, a Brazilian studying at a culinary school in Florence. I was in such a funk that I actually cancelled on our first date - I was too sad to be social. But then I decided I needed some company to cheer me up and reached back out to Paolo. One of his girl friends was having a birthday, so he invited me to meet up with them to celebrate! 

Nope, this date didn’t end up being romantic, but because of Tinder, I found friends that became family in Italy. They were truly some of the kindest and most fun people ever! I got to feel like a real Italian, joining their friend group for a home-cooked dinner at their villa, with the most beautiful view of Tuscan vineyards from their rooftop. We shared many bottles of wine sitting at the Piazzale Michelangelo overlooking Florence, and hit the town for nights out dancing. Friends I’ll have for a lifetime? That’s amore!

Date 2: Venice

My travels through Italy took me to Venice next, where I went on my second Tinder date of the trip. A gondola ride for two through the Venice canals = €100. A free boat ride from a Tinder date? Priceless. Okay, so maybe I only swiped right on this guy because of his boat, but, to be fair, he put it in his profile picture! Besides, I wasn’t completely ruling him out as a romantic partner. Whether or not we had chemistry, I was proud to outsmart the overpriced, tourist trap gondolas. AND I got a cute guy to show me the coolest restaurants in town. Why go on a cicchetti crawl when you can go on a cicchetti cruise? We bounced from restaurant to restaurant, sampling local specialties and alternating between glasses of Prosecco and Campari spritzes. When in Venice, right? 

After all, it would be a shame to be alone in the most romantic city in the world…

Date 3: Rome

My friend Caitlin had been traveling with me in Rome but had just gone back to California, so again I turned to Tinder to find company for my last few days in Italy. It’s a match! Giovanni is a food-loving doctor from Sicily… and he had me at, “Ciao bella!"

Sometimes it takes a local to find the best gelato and the best views in town. Tinder tour guides for the win! When you match with someone who loves food as much as you, you know it’s gonna be a good date. Giovanni took me to the best arancini (fried rice balls) spot and the shop with the best pistachio gelato. I felt like a real Italian exploring the sights of ancient Rome with beers in hand, stopping only when it was time for aperitivo (happy hour). We popped in and out of art exhibits, and watched the sun set at the best viewpoint of the city, in the beautiful Villa Borghese park. My last meal in Italy? A home-cooked dinner at his house, with olive oil, wine, and limoncello, all from his farm in Sicily. The picture of Italian hospitality, and a perfect ending to a perfect trip in Italy.

The rest is history. Tinder was a lifesaver for making friends when traveling solo. Sometimes it was romantic, sometimes it wasn’t, but I made some great memories and some lifelong friends along the way.

Watch the full video from Tinder here:

Following along on Instagram? See more from the trip at #CarnivorrTravel.