After spending most of the last five years of my life in Bologna, Italy, the day after Valentine’s Day will never be the same. With the same pioneering, rule-breaking spirit that the Italians have brought to art, fashion, engineering, architecture, and crime, they’ve also brought to Valentine’s Day by creating their own holiday celebrating singles everywhere (everywhere meaning: the more the merrier) called Saint Faustino’s Day. Happening annually on February 15th, the holiday would more appropriately be described as “clandestine lovers day.” Since today is Saint Faustino’s Day, and you might not find yourself anywhere near Italy, here’s a little story to get you inspired for next year’s party planning.
It was a quiet afternoon in January and my tranquil afternoon was rudely interrupted by my telephone.
“Hello?” I answered from my apartment in Bologna, Italy.
“Yo Peg! What’s up? Can I use your place the day after Valentine’s Day?” comes the voice of my high school friend, also an American living in Bologna, and herein referred to as GF to protect his identity.
“Why do you think? I want to meet girls!”
Sigh. Of course.
“I don’t understand how your constant interest in the opposite sex has anything to do with my place or the day after Valentine’s Day,” I responded with the typical bit of annoyance creeping into my voice, a common occurrence in conversations with GF.
“Peg, what’s your problem? Everyone knows the day after Valentine’s Day is singles day in Italy. I can’t have a party at my place! I’d have to do the cleaning up!”
Obviously my friend GF has a lot of redeeming qualities that outweigh – or at least balance – the less than ideal ones. And, as usual, I fell prey to his obscure charm and agreed to host a February 15th singles party at my apartment, much to the chagrin of my three roommates. I mean, hey, I was single. Why not get into the spirit, right? No sense in languishing in feelings of inadequacy on Valentine’s Day when I can be busy party planning for Saint Faustino’s Day.
Party-planning immediately got underway, meaning I created what turned out to be a fairly robust Facebook invite. GF constantly monitored it to check out how attractive the girls were that had RSVPed “yes.”
But as the big day approached, I got sick. Strep throat. It wasn’t pretty. And I had no insurance to get antibiotics, as my “permission to stay” application had not been finalized yet by the Italian authorities, which meant that I was living in a crack within Italian bureaucracy and had no legitimate access to healthcare (although, to their credit, I could always go to the hospital and would be well taken care of). On February 12th I found myself sitting and crying on the couch in our dining room because my fever was so high. I didn’t know what to do, and things really weren’t looking good for Saint Faustino. My Turkish roommate Zey, who is possibly the nicest person on earth, walked by on the way to the kitchen. She assessed the situation (me) and quickly produced the travel antibiotic she always gets before leaving Istanbul and returning to Bologna.
I started taking them right away. I stayed in bed constantly, abstaining from all social invites and even cancelling teaching English lessons. I was determined: I had to get well for the Saint Faustino party.
Valentine’s Day came and went quickly. Forgettable. And I quickly found myself waking up on Saint Faustino’s Day. I was still really sick. So what did I do? I got out of bed, took a shower, and put on my best pink cocktail dress and a whole lotta makeup. I figured if I wasn’t going to heal the old-fashioned way, I may as well just give it the good old college try.
We decorated our dining-room-with-a-couch with a random assortment of accessories from the 99 cent store (actually, multiple 99 cent stores, since they are practically on every corner in Bologna). Friends started arriving, mostly from my graduate program at the University of Bologna and our extended circle. GF arrived fashionably late with his sidekick and enough liquor for an army. He immediately started complaining about my playlist and anxiously awaiting enough guests to make the party not embarrassingly empty.
And came they did. Very fashionably late. But what would a party be in Italy if the guests arrived before 11pm? Boring, that’s what! 😉 Friends came in groups and trickles of singles that we knew from all over town. People tossed their coats in my room.
Was everyone single? Not even close. But we all had at least one thing in common – we were all indisputably fun-loving. Somebody brought a guitar. Others starting noting my Valentine’s accessories and playing games. People paired up and then mingled again. A couple found my room suitable for making out, which didn’t stop people from grabbing their coats and enjoying the entertainment.
I noticed my project partner in my statistics class was spending a long time in my kitchen talking with the roommate of one of our classmates, a beautiful Italian woman. GF noticed too and wasted no time in swooping in as soon as my statistics partner left early. Hallelujah! The party was officially a success. GF met a beautiful woman that he wouldn’t have met otherwise.
I don’t remember when GF and his Saint Faustino’s Day interest left. But I remember quite distinctly that my last party guests didn’t leave till 4am. And they insisted I join them wherever they were going next. I declined, out of character for me.
I didn’t want to push my luck. It was 4am, I was feeling better than I had in over a week, GF was happy, and I had just thrown a memorably enjoyable party. Life was good.
So I went to bed, and woke up feeling awesome. GF called. No fireworks with his Saint Faustino’s Day catch, but he was happy nonetheless. My statistics partner messaged me. He wanted me to help him get to know this girl better. The same girl.
Never a dull moment.
And now, they are married. My statistics partner and the beautiful Italian girl that made such a splash at my first Saint Faustino’s Day party. I can barely wait to tell their kids the story of how their parents met in my kitchen. And it is all thanks to GF, and the fierce spirit of the Italians in their quest for love. There is no occasion not worthy of pursuing potentially life-changing love, especially the day after Valentine’s Day. Here’s to making the most of every day, especially today. Happy Saint Faustino’s Day!!!