The Italian greeting takes some getting used to. It’s a kiss on both cheeks, but make sure that you begin on the correct side (the left, by the way) or you may end up in an awkward and uncomfortable situation as you kiss your friend’s boyfriend square on the lips. The fear of that used to stress me out big time - can you imagine the embarrassment? Once I got over that however, I started to delight in the warmth of the Italian greeting. It always involves an arm on the arm or shoulder of the person you are greeting and necessitates that you actually get close to this person. Physical contact is much less frequent in US society. We tend to keep our distance, concerned with offending someone or stepping out of line. Italians lean in, touch your arm for emphasis, squeeze your cheek even if you are are not a small child. They are expressive and passionate and it really is contagious.
Here in New England the anniversary of the Boston Marathon Bombing looms large and it makes me think that now, more than ever, we need to embrace more, kiss more, love more. The Italians got it right. Un bacio a voi! Who are you going to kiss today?