It is straight out of every girl’s Italian fantasy. She is at an iconic landmark like the Spanish Steps, the Rialto Bridge or the Piazza Navone, and she is approached by a handsome, charming Latin Lover with a bad boy look but a soft heart.
He tells her she is beautiful. He offers her a rose. She takes it. She rides on the back of his motorbike all over Rome, they fall in love, get married and have a giant wedding and live happily ever after.
It starts out like this:
This above scene does play out countless times per day in Rome, Venice and Florence, as young men approach tourists and offer them a rose, trying to steal their hearts, or scam them out of a few Euros, to be precise.
After getting the rose, the girl takes a closer look to realize the man who just gave her the rose is not the Latin Lover of her dreams, but a guy from India or Bangladesh. And he wants money for the rose.
Usually, the girl isn’t single and does not fall in love with the man, but does want the rose. The rose giver then refuses to take the rose back and asks for small money, badgering the boyfriend for the cash if she won’t pay up.
At the Spanish Steps, I caught this tricky maneuver on camera. This may be the first time the Rose Hustle has been photographed, so I will probably win an award in investigative journalism for this.
As you can see above, the unwitting blonde tourist has taken the rose from the vendor and is trying to give it back. The boy gives the universal thumbs up sign saying he only needs small money.
She pays up and as the couple leaves, the Rose Hustler taps Boyfriend on the back, the universal sign for “sorry about that, bro.” You can see the embarrassment plastered on the girls face. She was duped.
The Rose Hustle does not always go according to plan. I saw some pretty serious arguments break out between would-be vendors and would-be rose takers. Below, I captured a scam gone awry.
Watching this charade begs the question: Why not simply sell the roses to the tourists? I guess that has been tried to no avail. The laws of economics lead me to believe that this way is more successful than simply selling the roses.
Having been to India last year, I learned to pretty much not talk to anyone trying to sell anything, anywhere. So we Bells didn’t get scammed. I have evidently learned from my past mistakes. And Kristi already has a Latin-ish Lover in the form of me, so she wasn’t tempted.
If you find yourself on the Spanish Steps of Rome, with romance in the air, accept the rose at your own risk.
Have you ever accepted a rose from a local boy, fallen madly in love and had a storybook love affair?
Have you ever been hustled for your money with the ruse of romance?
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