La Bella Figura

There is much to see in Lucca. The historical sites, the glittering gorgeous shop windows and the people. How is it possible for there to be so many beautiful people in one small town? In fact, across Italy in every town big or small it is the same. Men and women, young and old, each making their own fashion statement and each one perfectly aware that they are. It’s just what people with Italian genes (pardon the pun) do. They just can’t help it, and I can hardly restrain myself from photographing them as they buy their daily groceries.  La Bella Figura is important and long may it be so.

Even on the Wall, and presumably in the gym, no sacrifice is made to la Bella Figura. I have witnessed this. Early in the morning when I’ve fallen out of bed, pulled on a baggy t-shirt and leggings, and left for some exercise with only a cursory smoothing of my bed-hair, I have seen i Signori with their perfectly groomed ponytails and lip gloss, matching running gear and cute headbands (or ear muffs depending on the temperature).  Sure they run hard and work up a sweat but even then they somehow manage to look good.

So it is with some embarrassment that I must tell you of my first, and hopefully only, sartorial faux pas. One morning, I had an idea to start a new routine. I’d exercise early then stop in a bar for a cappuccino on the way home. It would be a nice way to start the morning and exchange a cheery ‘buon giorno’ with the barista I thought. Ha!

The barista could barely hide his surprise at seeing a red faced, trainer-wearing straniera (foreigner) in his bar. He made me a coffee but clearly would have preferred that I’d chosen another bar. And I did too. His bar happened to be lined with mirrors and everywhere I looked I could see my reflection, the complete opposite of la Bella Figura.

La Bella Figura isn’t just about being well dressed and well groomed. It’s also about having good manners, displaying appropriate behaviour and knowing the correct social etiquette for every situation. In a country blessed with so much glorious art, music, sculpture and architecture, it’s quite fitting that its people live their lives with such style and elegance. And it’s also understandable that they hold everyone to their high standards.

I got a ‘not achieved’ that morning. I finished my coffee and rushed back to my apartment. I took extra care with what I wore for the rest of that day and, although I’ll never compete in the Bella Figura stakes, I’ve done the same every day since.

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