Una bella figura
There is this cooking show I’ve been watching every weeknight (remember this?) featuring two vero Italians who passionately talk about food, love and life. It’s an inspiring, funny, heart-touching show, depicting not only mouth-watering recipes but essential living-la-dole-vita lessons.
One of my favorite episodes is the one talking about fare una bella figura, literally meaning to make a good appearance.
Gennaro Contaldo & Antonio Carluccio
The Two Greedy Italians start off by visiting the beautiful Portofino, a former fishermen village now turned into a high-end destination. The downside of the story is that the village got its notoriety among celebrities starting with the 1950s to such an extent that today it has lost its essence, its true spirit.
Nowadays people come to Portofino to show off and to make a grotesque parade of their wealth and social status. Restaurants in Portofino serve frozen fish from all over the world – frozen fish in a fishermen’s village (?!?) – because tourists don’t seem to care what they have on their plates as long as it is ridiculous expensive and can be posted online for everyone to see and envy.
As Gennaro and Antonio move forward to visit simpler villages, away from the entire social hierarchy buzz, from all that phoniness and cartoonish lives, the idiom “fare una bella figura” gets another meaning – people still want to make a good appearance but not by displaying the security codes of their bank accounts, but the one belonging to their hearts.
Fare una bella figura is about others, it’s about generosity and about lending a helping hand to the less fortunate ones, as the priest they meet on their way demonstrates so beautifully.
This elderly gentleman (picture below), working with social outcasts, is the one who reminds them that the true bella figura is not about showing off, but about giving something of yourself in order to discover your own worth.
Surely, I’ve been on that road myself: in my early twenties fare una bella figura was about proving myself, making something out of myself, impress others and get their approval – you know: the social status, the job, the guy, the designer bag, the exotic holiday destination, the car. That was my “Portofino-phase”.
But as years went by, I moved to another phase in my life (Amen, to that!) where it’s not about me anymore, it’s about others too. And it all seems so ridiculous now, looking back, though it was a valuable stage in my life and it has brought me where I stand today.
In short, this episode left me with an immense comforting feeling that what I know so far in my life it’s true: there’s so much more to life than the sum of things and material belongings – it’s about the sum of strong feelings, of thrilling emotions, of countless heartbeats, of happy tears, of heartfelt bear-hugs, of passionate kisses and of special people in our lives. Life is also about giving, about sharing and offering and about feeling completely good about yourself just by being, not by possessing.
What about you, friends? What does fare una bella figura mean to you?
See you soon!