Skip to content

You're about to learn a secret about picking up Italian women. Or any women, really. This could probably work on men, too.

WARNING: Some of this story might qualify as Too Much Information. If you think so, you should probably skip it. You’ve been forewarned.

“Non e’ difficile,” said Francesco. It's not difficult. He was telling me how to get an Italian girlfriend.

Francesco had an eagle's head tattoo on one of his muscular arms. He stood beneath a “No Smoking” sign, rolling cigarettes and smoking them one after another.

“Irene, do you think I can teach this American how to pick up Terracina girls?” Francesco asked a young woman who was sipping a cappuccino. He pronounced her name ee-RAY-nay.

She put her hands together as if she were praying, and said “O Dio mio.”

For the next minute or so she looked at me, wide-eyed, shaking her head and her index finger, and mouthing the word “no,” while Francesco tried to impart his favorite observations and techniques.

Ask almost any Italian woman, and she’ll tell you Italian men are pigs. But the truth is, they’re the same as any guys anywhere. They’re just more transparent about it.

I wouldn’t recommend most of what Francesco told me that day in a bar in Terracina. But during my years in Italy I dated three--yes three!--Italian women.

If you're interested, you're about to learn a secret to picking up Italian women. Or any women, really. This could probably work on men, too.

You see, in Los Angeles, I'm just an ordinary dude who talks too much. But in Italy I'm a foreigner with an accent.

When someone speaks to me in Italian, I have to try really hard to follow along. Sometimes the only conversation I can manage is an awkward smile while I nod and say, “si’.” If I need to say much more than that, there’s a long pause while I struggle to remember the Italian word for peanut butter or how to conjugate the verb spalmare.

Apparently my weak language skills come across as intense concentration. My awkward pauses make me look thoughtful. To Italians, I appear to be a good listener.

It turns out many women can't resist a good listener, especially if he has a foreign accent.

Using my foreign accent mojo, I had once met a young woman who lived in a small town in central Italy. We were kindred spirits. In better economic times, she had traveled far, and had seen and done many interesting things.

She broke up with me over the phone about a week before I arrived in Italy to bike the via Appia. Then, the night before I started riding, she texted me and wanted to meet for coffee.

Now here I was, at the beginning of one of the coolest adventures of my life, and all I could think about was this girl. When I looked at Irene, and whenever I looked at just about any Italian woman on this trip, I was really thinking of her.

All I needed to do was alter my travel plans a little, and maybe I could rekindle an old fire. Would I call her? Or would I just keep going, and run away from another relationship?

I’m not an expert at this stuff, but I do have a litmus test. If the relationship makes you stronger, if the person helps you and encourages you to pursue your goals, especially if the two of you pursue your goals together, then you’ve found a winner.

If the person makes you feel insecure and confused, especially if that distracts you from enjoying the fulfilment of whatever really matters to you, then walk away.

On that day in Terracina, I didn’t know if I wanted to embrace the relationship or walk away. Maybe she didn’t, either.

As I write this now, I’m married (to someone else), and all those old issues have disappeared. I just want you to know the truth about my trip. I traveled across half of Italy with only half my mind and half my heart, because I could neither embrace nor let go of the relationship I was in.

If you ever do a solo bike tour, keep in mind that your emotional baggage will color your adventure in unpredictable ways.

If you enjoyed this article, you'd be crazier than a young Caligula not to sign up for the newsletter. When you do, I'll send you a free copy of my travel notes from the latest bike tour along via Appia.

Did this magic mushroom coffee somehow make me smarter and more creative? Probably not from a single cup. But there are a lot of good reasons to try it out. It might even help you handle longer and faster bike rides.

“This will light you up like a Christmas tree,” was how Tim Ferriss described a brand of mushroom coffee.

I couldn’t resist. I went online and bought some for myself.

A week later, my package arrived. It was a great coincidence, because I was about to meet a potential client to talk about some business writing. I made a cup and the strange potion, and went to the meeting.

To make a long story short, the client wanted to see what I could write in 10 minutes. I came up with a draft for one of his web pages that made him laugh out loud. He wrote me a check on the spot.

So, did this magic mushroom coffee somehow make me smarter and more creative? Probably not from a single cup.

But there are a lot of good reasons to try it out. It might even help you handle longer and faster bike rides.

Introducing Lion's Mane

For the past year or so, there’s been a lot of buzz about this mushroom, Hericium erinaceus. It’s popularly known as Lion’s Mane, and it has been used for centuries as food and medicine.

Igelstachelbart, Hericium erinaceus
Research and analysis have shown many health benefits. It is high in antioxidants and polysaccharides, just like all edible mushrooms. The benefits of these compounds are well-documented. But two things that set H. erinaceus apart are its ability to stimulate nerve growth, and to possibly enhance brain activity. 

For years, Lion’s Mane was quietly touted as a “smart drug.” Then in 2009, Lion’s Mane was tested on humans. A Japanese study found that H. erinaceus helped people with mild cognitive impairment, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Unfortunately, a cup of mushroom coffee isn’t enough. The test subjects took almost a gram of dried Lion’s Mane every day for sixteen weeks. It was four weeks before any significant benefits were recorded.

I believe in doing things over the long term, and for the past month I’ve been taking Lion’s Mane supplements. I’m not smart enough to tell if this is making me any smarter, but the more I read, the more benefits I find out about.

One of these benefits is an increase in glycogen levels.

Glycogen is quick fuel for your muscles. It’s stored directly in your muscles, and the more you’ve got, the more endurance you have. A study in 2015 showed that H. erinaceum can increase the storage of glycogen in muscle tissues. At least if you're a mouse.

That’s good enough for me. I’m setting up a space in my house to grow my own Lion’s Mane. Apparently it’s delicious when fried in butter with a little bit of salt and pepper. I’ll keep you posted.

DISCLAIMER: Hopefully you know that I am NOT a doctor, and this article is not meant to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any illness. Consult a licensed professional before you consume anything meant to be medicinal.

By the way, if you want to try Lion's Mane for yourself, I recommend two things:

  1. Make sure you get the "fruiting body" of the mushroom. That's the part of the mushroom with all the recorded benefits. Cheaper brands might include other parts that taste nasty and have no confirmed benefits.
  2. Some of the beneficial compounds can be dissolved in water, others need alcohol to break them down. That's why I like the "dual extraction" process used by Four Sigma. They do both. Better still would be to get the actual mushroom, as I'm planning to do.

If you enjoyed this article, you'd be crazier than a young Caligula not to sign up for the newsletter. When you do, I'll send you a free copy of my travel notes from the latest bike tour along via Appia.