Let’s face reality: true or not, Italians have a name for being great lovers and incredible charmers. Call it the Rudy Valentino effect, blame it on Casanova or even on Mark Antony, it doesn’t matter.
The world believes it. And it is nothing to complain about.
Some may point out our language is one of the reasons we got this reputation: and how could you blame them? It’s not called the language of love for nothing. Among the many colorful expressions concocted throughout the centuries to talk about and initiate love, there is one that is pretty common without being too naughty: fare il filo.
Teens and elderly, men and women, professors and sailors, all use the expression fare il filo: its register has no gender, age nor profession, it fits all sizes and belongs to all regions. It means to be romantically interested in someone, or even just feeling attracted to them and pursuing them with some tenacity. Literally, it translates with “making a thread” or “producing thread.”
Apparently, it was associated with the anglicism flirtare (to flirt, of course), already in 1948, so its origin is certainly precedent. According to some, it has a mildly naughtier nuance than filare (another expression use to indicate liking someone a lot, or even going out with them already, although unofficially), but it is certainly most commonly used as synonym of courting.
Fare il filo may or may not derive from the act of producing thread typical of spiders and silkworms: well, considering the time and patience often involved in stealing your beloved’s heart, such etymology would definitely make sense.
Another school of thought likes to associate its origins to the old habit young men of Bologna had, at the beginning of the last century, to visit all the ballrooms in town to flirt around with the girls. They were nicknamed filuzziani because they would filare (in the sense of moving) from a place to the other, thus the association with the expression.
Fare il filo can also be used metaphorically, to show when you really want something but are not quite ready to get it.
Lo sai che Marco fa il filo a Erica?
Marco is interestered in Erica, did you know?
Il mio ragazzo mi ha fatto il filo una vita prima che ci mettessimo insieme
My boyfriend pursued me for ages before we started dating.
Faccio il filo a quel vestito da mesi, ma è ancora troppo caro. Aspetterò i saldi.
I’ve been looking at that dress for months, but it’s still too expensive. I’ll have to wait for the sales.