By Laura Phillips
La Bella Figura, which loosely translates as “Italians really care about how they look”, really exists. Before I left on my road trip to visit the other team members, I went to buy a warmer coat. The prices for most everything in Florence are really high, so I found a used down jacket at the outdoor market, took it home and washed it. After it dried, I noticed that some of the feathers tended to come out at the seams, but I didn’t think much about it as it was warm.
I arrived in Naples, attended a church service, and the next day Regula, one of my team members, told me nicely that I needed to wear one of her coats as mine made me look like a gypsy, and the Italians would judge me by my appearance. At first I thought; too bad. But then I remembered I must adapt to the customs of my host country, even if I think they’re silly!
The next day we went to the market to buy a new coat. Because I was so cold, I wanted to wear two of my thinner jackets under my coat. Well, I was told by the market man that I needed to take off those jackets because they made me look fat, and I wasn’t fat, and I didn’t need to look fat. ( Even market men care about La Bella Figura) We finally compromised: I kept one jacket on and bought a coat one size larger. Now I wish I followed his advice and got a smaller size coat as I think I look too fat in this one!
Most Italian women do not wear hats even if they are really cold as it messes up their hair. Functional hats that cover your ears are almost impossible to find. So now I am still cold, but by golly, I look marvelous. Yes I am suffering for the sake of fashion!