10 things you don’t know about the Italian kiss


On 6th of July it’s World Kiss Day and I think Italians have a lot to say about the topic. Despite the French have ‘stolen’ the most passionate of all kisses, we have our way of kissing and a lot of stories to tell.

1. The kiss in Ancient Rome

Romans had three different kind of kiss: ‘basium‘ (the lovers’ kiss), ‘savium‘ (the prostitutes’ kiss), ‘osculum‘ the one for relatives.
The last one was also called ‘bacio alla romana‘ (the roman’s kiss) and it was used between member of the same family, according to the legend, as an excuse to check if a women had drunk wine.

2. The kiss in art

One of the most famous romantic Italian painting is ‘Il Bacio’ by Francesco Hayez (painted in 1859) on display at the Pinacoteca dell’Accademia di Brera. The painting inspired Federico Seneca, artistic director of Perugina, one of the most famous Italian chocolate brand, in the early 20s for the traditional blue box with the lovers’picture for the chocolates Baci Perugina.

3. Kiss and chocolate

A must for generations of Valentine’s dates, the Bacio Perugina is a small chocolate invented by Luisa Spagnoli in 1922 with the leftovers of chocolate production. The strange new chocolate with the shape of a punch was called ‘cazzotto‘ (punch) but the Perugina managing director Giovanni Buitoni that this name was not suitable to the product and he changed it with ‘bacio’ (kiss).

According to the gossip, Luisa had the habit of writing short messages to his secret lover Giovanni Buitoni, wrapping them around the chocolates which then she sent him for the final inspection. Apparently inspired by this unacknowledged romance, Federico Seneca wanted to link forever this sweet thought to the chocolate. For that reason since its birth Bacio Perugina have hidden a love message written in different languages between the chocolate and the silver wrapping.

Bacio Perugina

4. Two kisses are for greeting

In Italy the kiss has spread as a form of greeting, especially among relatives and friends. Generally they will exchange two kisses. Not three or four (too many!) as our French cousins. The single kiss is more informal and is used when you see someone every day, especially among members of the same family. The kiss as form of greeting is used between women or men and women, while between men the most common form of greeting is the handshake. In the South of Italy kissing it’s very popular as a form of friendly greeting and as a form of presentation among people who meet for the first time. In recent times, we are witnessing the spread of the kiss as a form of greeting in young people, especially girls but also boys.

5. Mum’s kiss

La mamma è sempre la mamma‘ (mum is always mum) is one of the typical Italian expression to highlight the importance and uniqueness of the mother in a proper Italian male subject’s life.

The stereotype of ‘mammone’ (mama’s boy) is rooted in the overly attached relationship of the little boy with his mum, based on kisses, hugs and tenderness.

According to a study of Antica Gelateria del Corso, achieved through an online monitoring methodology on social networks, 7 out of 10 mums claim that the best present ever is a kiss from their son.

6. Kissing the pope’s hand

The pope wears on his left hand a ring called “the fisherman’s ring” (Anulus Piscatoris), which represent S.Peter dropping the fishing net from his boat. The devoted kiss it when they meet the pontiff to show respect and deference to him and to the institution of the church. So far the ring used to be drop-forged with gold, but the current Pope Francis decided to have one in golden silver.

7. The ‘baciamano’

It literally means ‘to kiss someone’s hand’ but be careful: according to the etiquette, your lips should never touch the lady’s hand. Instead, while the man gets close to her had, he has to look up into her eyes, with a lot of elegance… the risk to appear clumsy is high. Still, according to the etiquette, the ‘baciamano’ is reserved only to married women and… spinsters. Never kiss a young lady’s hand, it will look ambiguous. Moreover, if you do it on the wrist, you’re basically admitting she’s your lover. Finally, remember to do it only in close spaces or private events.

8. The Last Kiss

The Italian director Silvio Muccino, internationally famous thanks to ‘The Pursuit of Happiness’ starring Will Smith, is extremely famous in Italy for ‘The Last Kiss’, a movie from 2001 which was also remade five years later by Tony Goldwin. The plot could fit the category of ‘comedy-drama’, but we would invite you to look at it, to find out how many choices an innocent kiss can lead to…

9. Juda’s kiss

Judas approached Jesus and said, ‘Hello, Rabbi’. And he kissed him.

This is one of the most famous kisses in history, whether you’re a believer or not. The kiss of Juda became through the centuries a symbol of betrayal, and Italians have transformed it into a proverb.

Berlin Wall

10. Criminal kisses

The stereotype of Italians men describe him extremely manly, rude, and strong. Unlikely, in the criminality, it’s not rare to see men kissing each other, especially between criminals. Why is that? Depends. While in the mafia it represents a death penalty, in the camorra it’s a way to reassure the boss a vow of silence, so no information will be revealed to the police or judges.

Da mi basia mille, deinde centum,
Dein mille altera, dein seconda centum,
Deinde usque altera mille, deinde centum.

Give me a thousand kisses, then a hundred.
Then, another thousand, and a second hundred.
Then, yet another thousand, and a hundred.

Words by Caroline Latini e Gaia Mellone





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