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My first instinct was to dismiss this as another run-of-the-mill, preachy self-help book for women, with a familiar and uninspiring crux. However, Kamin Mohammadi’s Bella Figura is so much more. It is raw and witty, an honest account of one woman’s journey towards rediscovering herself in Florence, where she experiences the sensuality and pleasures that are so crucial to the Italian way of living.
After years at a stressful, high-powered job in London, Mohammadi is left burnt-out and heartbroken. She jumps at the opportunity to escape her misery and move to picturesque Florence for a fresh start in the new year. Here, she discovers sights and smells previously unknown to her, learns to slow down and absorb the beauty that abounds in her vicinity, and finds friends and companions in her neighbourhood, the local markets and quaint bars. Amid her newly acquired social life, she discovers la bella figura, or the Italian way of physically presenting your best self. It may sound pretentious, but as Mohammadi’s friend Luigo explains, it is really about learning to make an effort for nobody but yourself, and enjoying the simple pleasures of everyday life.
The writing is evocative, and I almost felt like I was walking the cobbled streets of Florence, smelling the heavenly scents wafting through cafés and bakeries, hearing the neighbours’ chattering from their balconies and even tasting the gorgeous Italian recipes that feature generously throughout the book.
Bella Figura, written like a monthly diary, features events and instances from Mohammadi’s life in Florence as the year progresses, including new Italian words and phrases that she learns, beautiful seasonal recipes she’s taught by the locals, and the quintessentially Italian moments that make her fall in love with the city. Her accounts of romantic encounters (both successful and unsuccessful) are candid and relatable, and will make you smile. The book is a light and enjoyable read, and while readers may relate varyingly to the narrative, there will certainly be unanimity in realising the need to live one’s best life, and embodying la bella figura.
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