37. Bella Figura

My guilty pleasure is reading memoirs by people, usually American but also British and Australian, who have moved to Italy, often simply because they have fallen in love with the place. You’d actually be surprised to know how many of these exist; I own at least 20, and have read many more from the library.

I recently read one I particularly enjoyed, Bella Figura, by Kamin Mohammadi, a former London magazine editor of Iranian descent, who moves to Firenze after losing both her job and her boyfriend. Besides her accounts of her romantic and other adventures there, I was most interested in the lessons she learned about living the good life. They can be boiled down to this: love yourself by surrounding yourself with only good – not necessarily expensive- things. Eat good, pure food; take the time to sit and enjoy it; reach out and build connections to those around you; make the effort to try to look your best, even if you’re just at the market or strolling with a friend. And here’s a kicker – drink four spoonfuls of excellent-quality olive oil a day.

Americans are all about comfort. Four-inch spike heels notwithstanding, we are known across the world for our tendency to wear clothing that comes as close to actual pajamas as possible, and for our gigantic boat-like sneakers. When I get dressed for work in the morning, my thought is rarely what looks nice and would make me feel good, but rather, “Ok, this will do.” And yet watching Italians of all ages out for the passeggiata, you can just tell that everyone has made a bit of an effort – in a way that shows respect for themselves and for each other. Perhaps it comes from being part of a world that is so jam-packed with such natural and created beauty that detracting from it is unthinkable. Men and women, young and old, no one is excepted or immune.

So I resolve to try. And maybe even take a swig of olive oil or two.

Many thanks to Nancy McCue for her photographs.

One thought on “37. Bella Figura

  1. Gigi, you always look awesome. Of all my friends, you have the strongest sense of personal style. So don’t change it! The olive oil idea sounds good, though. Hey, have you read In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri, speaking of memoirs by people who go to live in Italy?


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