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More than enough has been said about the French kiss, but what about kissing Italian-style? As soon as you start meeting relatives and friends in Italy, you will surely encounter this phenomenon, sometimes also referred to as the “European-style” kiss. This particular form of greeting tends to put off Anglo-American visitors to this sultry Mediterranean country, who often view the custom as phony, or too intrusive for its own good. But this affectionate gesture is as intrinsic a part of Italian culture as… well… breathing.

While it might seem unsettling to be greeted with a kiss rather than a good old handshake, the Italian-style kiss is actually nothing to fear. Read on to decode this very Italian of behaviors…..

What The Italian-style kiss – known in Italian as il bacetto (“the little kiss”, not to be confused with il bacio, the romantic kiss) is a gesture of friendship and intimacy.

Who You give il bacetto to your friends and family. People you like. People you know. Skip the bacetto and risk sending someone into an Are they mad at me? tailspin.

Where, How Ah, the fun part. How do you Italian Kiss? The Italian bacetto consists of two closed-mouth pecks on the cheeks. Both of ‘em. First one and then the other. Smak smak! Depending on the degree of intimacy, il bacetto might hover slightly above the cheek – the infamous “air” kiss – or might make full contact with the person’s cheek, although this is usually done with the side of the kisser’s mouth. After all, il bacetto is friendly, not romantic.

When Il bacetto comes out to play when greetings are exchanged. Ciao, Angelo! (smak, smak) Arrivederci, Simona! (smak, smak) You kiss when you run into someone on the street. You kiss when you bid them goodbye. Note: il bacetto is not used when you meet someone for the first time; in that case, you’ll simply shake hands.

Why Why give il bacetto? Because you’re in Italy! And when in Rome….

What’s been your experience with the Italian kiss?

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