La Bella Figura, translated literally means “the beautiful figure”. It can mean many things but for Italians it is a way of life and it means the way one appears and presents oneself in the world. Italians are very protective of La Bella Figura, they guard it with their lives and would do anything to preserve it. It might be hard for us to understand, but in essence Italians take pride in the way they look, not only physically, but also figuratively and most importantly how they look in other people’s eyes. They are obsessed about making the best impression everywhere and at all times. In their minds there is a certain way that one is supposed to behave and act, and if one doesn’t…oh, well then it is a Brutta Figura (ugly figure)!
This way of thinking permeates the essence of the Italian being. No wonder Italians are known for beauty, presentation, quality and luxury. For centuries, they have mastered the art of presenting oneself in the most perfect way possible. Beauty is valued and respected in Italy as one of the venerated assets of the culture. From the art to the architecture and all the way to the perfectly designed dress, the Bella Figura can be found in the style and fashion we love and follow today. Just think about the effort Italian women make every day when they put on their stilettos and walk down the cobblestone street, now that is dedication!
On the behavioral side, the Bella Figura dictates that one have manners, proper discretion and a certain decorum about oneself; on the presentation and appearance side it dictates that one dress impeccably, allowing one's image to be a visual beauty for all to see.
Never in a million years would you see an Italian at the grocery store in his or her slippers and what appears to be PJ pants. It would be blasphemy! Italians incorporate the Bella Figura in everything they do, from bringing a small “pensierino” (gift) when visiting someone’s house, to stores displaying masterpieces in their windows, from dressing like one is going to a gala event just to go get a coffee at the local coffee shop, to hosting a 7 course meal on a week day, from having one's house spotless 24/7, 7 days a week just because, to making sure you experience just the right restaurant that is the best kept secret in the city.
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