MILAN, Italy – This is the city of beautiful people.
I spent the last week hiding behind dark sunglasses staring at them all. And trust me on this – once you are staring there is no way to stop yourself.
This is nothing like staring in the U.S., when the latest freak show walks past you and your eyes cannot help but travel up and down their bodies, not being able to get enough of the weirdness.
Here, the freak shows of America are few and far between, and beautiful people prowl the streets day and night.
They call it “la bella figura.”
Behind the bright eyes, the enticing smile, and the ridiculously fabulous fashion sense, is a mind-set that Italians have and unfortunately we Americans completely lack. At least, I know I do.
The mindset is similar to a diet. They consider everything in their lifestyle in terms of quantities, qualities, composition and its effects on health.
If the passion for beauty simply stopped at the outside appearances of clothes and cars, you would think it superficial and maybe not as big of a deal. But it is much more than that. It spills over into their mentality. This is the only place in the world where you will hear a daily expression meaning you must have a good figure – a good lifestyle.
This is nothing that I could have ever gained from a guidebook, but lucky for you, I have established a basic guide to becoming Italian, and hopefully their incredible beauty will come with it. (I’m still hoping.)
In just one short week of closely observing (and by observing I mean jealously staring intently at each and every gorgeous figure to enter my sight), I have been able to come up with a guide to the beautiful life ... the European diet.
Step 1: Lose the phrase “bigger is better” from your vocabulary. To have a “bella figura,” you must pay attention to quantity. Give up the clunker mobiles, big fancy houses, room to spread out your elbows.
Here, little is perfect and no one wants or needs more. And the meals are all small too. There’s no Starbucks here, kids. If you want a coffee bigger than a shot, this is not the place for you.
Step 2: Party all night. This is where quality comes into play. To enjoy the night and the next day without a serious hangover, it isn’t important to drink in excess. One or even two glasses of wine or an aperitivo (happy hour) with dinner is acceptable.
Even after spending the weekend in the clubs, I have yet to see a stumbling drunk. I obviously am not at IU anymore.
Step 3: Embrace everyone. Passing someone in the street without a smile or a hello is not OK. It’s not one good deed that makes a “bella figura,” but your lifestyle. iPods are not shoved into their ears on the subway to avoid conversation.
Strangers will sit and have a conversation or give a quick hello and smile. It shouldn’t feel awkward, but yet being American, it is.
It’s not the tiramisu diet I was hoping for, but things could be worse, right?