STUDIUM & FREIZEIT
Text and photos by Gaby Feniuk
Italy – the country of Pizza, Pasta and la dolce vita, the birthplace of da Vinci, Dante and Galilei. Probably no other country is romanticised as much by us Germans than Italy. During an internship in Bologna I had the chance to experience the Italian way of life first-hand.
While culture, food and weather were undeniably reasons that made me choose Italy as my destination in the first place, what kept fascinating me over time was the Italians’ seemingly innate sense of beauty and elegance. Think of an Italian woman with her dark curly hair styled to perfection and her red lips ready to smile at the compliments of her admirers or an Italian man with his neatly shaved beard and the button-up shirt well-pressed by his mother (just to throw in some stereotypes). As they dress to impress, so does the whole nation.
And it is probably no wonder: one who grows up in the country with the most UNESCO world heritage sites (55 along with China) just has to develop a sense of elegance and fashion – which, to be fair, we Germans lack sometimes. So of course, I got easily drawn in by all this bellezza of the language, people and architecture, which always made me feel as if stepping into an old movie while strolling through the streets of Bologna.
However, it wasn’t just sunshine and roses. One afternoon I was having coffee in a little café by myself when I was approached by an older man, who tried to engage me into a seemingly random conversation, which then became more and more awkward. At a certain point, he said “You have no idea how essential it is for a woman to look good. You can be nice and smart, but an ugly woman will always be an ugly woman. Because life is like a ball. An unattractive woman will never be approached and thus will never have the chance to dance.”
Leave Jack at home
Before I was able to wake from my state of shock and tell him that everybody can dance whenever and with whomever they want, he was gone to get his second grappa. I guess this is one of the ugly sides of the fixation on outward appearance. It often comes along with sexism and intolerance toward everyone who does not conform. Moreover, it seems like a slightly more superficial approach to life which tries to disguise all its negative aspects and problems – which Italy certainly has. So more than once I longingly thought back to my fellow Germans at home in their biker-shorts-and-Jack-Wolfskin-jacket-outfits (just to continue with the stereotypes).
But after having spent some time in Bologna now, I have come to the conclusion that – as cheesy as this may sound – the Italians’ appreciation of beauty is maybe nothing else than appreciation of the beauty of life itself. While I try not to sound like the stereotypical German who has learnt to enjoy life by spending time in Italy, I have to admit that I might take a bit longer now getting ready to go out. I do like putting some effort in my look. And sometimes I feel the necessity to say: “Johanna, Alexander, Franziska, come on, let’s celebrate the beauty of life – and no, leave your Jack Wolfskin jacket at home… just for today!”