"What we really need," he explained in a breathy Tuscan accent, "is an animatore."
Despite the fact that I'd been living in Italy for two months, I had no idea what he was talking about. "Your responsibility is what happens on the dance floor, not behind the bar," he said, but after a 40-minute conversation, all I knew was that an animatore gig had something to do with a microphone, themed parties, and a whole of lot drinking and dancing.
That was four months ago. Since then I've been partying like it's my job - because it is! There is no American equivalent to an Italian animatore, but imagine crossbreeding a bar mitzvah planner, a frat brother, and a flirtatious clown. Clubs as well as vacation resorts and hostels are the animatore's stomping grounds - no stuffy offices here.
I devise drink specials - the cheaper, the better - and plan parties for each night of the week, with themes like sangria night and, appropriately, toga parties. Armed with a microphone, I remind people that they're on vacation; that usually gets them drinking one euro shots of grappa or flaming Sambucca. For American frat types, however, all I have to do is challenge their masculinity.
Unlike with most jobs, an animatore has no division between work life and social life. The job is its own reward - plus about 300 euros per month and free room and board. And you don't even need to speak Italian perfectly (though every little bit helps): English is the language of tourism, and at bars and discos throughout Italy (if not all of Europe). People seem to dance and drink more when you shout "Let's party!" in English.