Italians are funny when it comes to names.

Or shall I say, they don’t exactly color outside the lines when it comes to picking one.

None of this naming their children after fruits, vegetables, inanimate objects, actors or actresses. There’s no A+ for creativity when it comes to naming your child in this country. Anything far from the likes of Stefano, Paolo or Alessandro is considered tacky or “tamarro” by Italian standards.

It’s simple. If it’s not a Saint’s name, it’s not happening.

I have the worst friggin name of all here. Heather.

Which sounds absolutely hideous when they try to say it. All the kids in elementary school who had crazy names that got butchered year after year, teacher after teacher, I feel your pain. The TH sound particularly  doesn’t go over well here. That’s because it doesn’t exist in their language. So it comes out (literally) sounding like HET-HAIR.

It’s also a name that leaves more than 90% of the people who cross my path, utterly perplexed. Looks of confusion and desperation like I’ve just stated I’m from Mars and they want to know if they’ve heard me correctly.

Then they say, ok, ma, in italiano?

At which point I just throw an Italian accent on it, which comes out like Etteeeerrrr (concluded with a rolling of the R that I can’t do). One time I introduced myself to someone at a bar saying my name like this and my English friend looked at me and said, what the hell is that??

Or, Plan B: I tell them it’s like Heather Parisi (an American showgirl who became famous in Italy many years ago. Her and I both have a heavy cross to bear in this country):

heather parisi

Heather Parisi


Pretty sure there was no Saint Heather either.

But just because Italians haven’t gotten too creative in this sense, doesn’t mean you can’t tell a whole lot about a person from their name. Well, maybe I’m jumping the gun. But you can definitely narrow it down to location. And if you live here, you will know what I mean.

My name, for example, is a dead giveaway that I’m not Italian. Introducing myself is almost surely followed by the question, “But where are you from?”

But if you’re out on a Friday night here and you cross paths with a Carmine, Pasquale or Gianmaria, he is from the South of Italy. You can bet on it.

If you’re tindering away and swipe right on a Salvatore, Giuseppe or Cosimo, your opening conversation will reveal he is from Naples, Sicily, Puglia or Calabria. Take your pick.

One time I was in Corso Como trying to have a drink with a girlfriend. Which is always an invitation for some unwanted attention. You can bet on that too.

This guy sat down so close to me that he literally pushed me into my friend. Yes, that was his tactic, force me to topple into my friend’s lap. A+ for creativity right there. It worked, Gianmarco got my attention. He then called over to his friend Nunzio (yes, Nunzio), who joined the party, after which they told us to get the attention of their social butterfly friend who was yapping away on his phone…



Actually, Provincia di Salerno to be exact. In case you wanted to know what that looked like:

Boys from Naples

We made it through a drink and a half with these three…my friend’s face says it all.

Then who could forget the Stage 5 clinger I met on the bus two years go? Ottavio. With a name like that, he’s gotta be …..and yes, yes he was: from Naples.

Domenico, Donato, Gennaro….just go to Rome, and keep heading South.

Although I’m going to throw a wrench into this nice little pattern and tell you I know a Patrick from Rome. Like a living, breathing Roman bad boy. Here’s the one exception to the rule:

Roman Boy

Imagine that….an Italian…named Patrick….

Back in Rhode Island I feel like it’s sometimes a contest to see who can pick the tackiest most Italian-sounding name. One time I came across a woman who had named her newborn daughter Gia Bella. Woah, that’s……instense. Why couldn’t my mother have jumped on that train?? At least for the sake of not having my ears bleed every time I hear my name here.

Now I just keep it simple. My middle name is Anne, which nicely translates to Anna, which has become my Italian alias. End of story. Hair appointments, table reservations, calling a taxi, all done under my Italian persona. Now I just have to deal with the look of confusion on my friends’ faces when they say:

Who the hell is Anna??