study abroad: how to dress like an italian

Study Abroad Florence Italy

TUES. JUNE 16: Day 8

An older lady just approached me and started rattling off fluent Italian. Thankfully, I understood that she was trying to get directions to Santo Spirito. Wow. I just realized I know my way around Florence enough to start giving directions.

I am feeling oh so Italian today. I’m adding this dress to my list of “wear this to feel super Italian” because I am getting a lot of Italian speakers’ attention today. Though, part of it may be how I am acting. Note: to look like a local even if you aren’t dressed like one, walk with perfect posture and walk with purpose. Confidence is key!

Italy is the place where the world’s most famous designers were born and get their inspiration so there is no doubt that when it comes to clothing, Italians do it better.  I have been here for a bit of time and can finally shed some insight onto the great big question of “how exactly does one dress like an Italian?”

It. Is. So. Hard. Even when I’m wearing a fabulous outfit, I still feel out of place. Somehow, the women here just glow.

Bella figura refers not only to the way you look, but also to the way you act and what you say. Italians must look good and be seen in the best light, always appearing to be in control and not showing ignorance or a lack of sophistication.

Step One: Don’t be blonde. If you are blonde, just give up because you will never be one of them. I’m sorry I had to break it to you like this.

Step Two: Wear heals, always. The more likely your shoes might break your ankles, the more Italian they are. You have to walk on the cobblestone roads, otherwise you’re weak. The Italian women can smell out weakness. Don’t be weak!

Step Three: Restrict the colors you wear. Italians wear just two at a time. They buy only four: black, blue, brown and white. In winter, black; in summer, white.

Step Four: Don’t ever wear short skirts or shorts. Even if you see Italian models wearing them, it is not considered the norm. There’s an unfortunate stereotype that North Americans are easy, and this will only further that idea. Be conservative.

Step Five: Wear skinny jeans. Not skin-tight skinny jeans, though. I don’t care if it is 86 degrees with humidity.  Wear jeans and then continue to complain about the heat. Young Italians do wear jeans, but very trendy jeans and always with high heels, or surprisingly, Converse.

Step Six: Sneakers are only worn for playing sports. Don’t wear sneakers to restaurants. Or, ever. You may feel that tennis shoes are the perfectly logical choice for long walks around the city, but they are too casual.

Step Seven: No sloppy clothing. Italians appreciate people who are well-dressed and give them more respect and attention.

Step Eight: Dark sunglasses. They protect your privacy and make you look sexy and mysterious.

In Florence, American students stick out for their lack of style. The uniform for college females—maxi skirts and crop tops, jeans and tees, and the bare minimum of fabric when going out at night—clashes with the elegance of Italian dressing.

The thought of wearing the athletic apparel to run errands would make a Florentine woman cringe (even if your leggings are from Lululemon).

While American college men sport gym shorts and grungy hipster apparel, Florentine men dress with taste and class: trim trousers, sleek button ups, fitted vests and jackets, and stylish loafers are a daily look.

Or, you can just say “screw it” and dress however you’d like. I’ve seen plenty of rule breakers. They speak fluent Italian though and live in Italy, so they can do whatever they want.

Speaking of fashion, it is currently men’s fashion week in Italy and the streets are filled with gorgeous, perfectly dressed Italian men. No, I’m not drooling… my lip is just, er, sweating.

I went out with my camera around 7 p.m. with the hopes of using photography as a way to meet a friend. Restaurant chefs and/or owners stand outside the door with their hands on their hips–“I am so proud to work here”–smiling at passerbys, inviting them to come eat at their establishment.

Study Abroad Florence Italy

This is how I met Constantine. After some small “hi, how are you?” talk…

“Come ti chiami?” What’s your name?
“Baby.”
“Baby?”
“Baby.”
“My chiamo Laurie. Studio il giornalismo è la fotografia. Passo fare una foto?”
My name is Laurie. I study journalism and photography. May I take your photo?

His eyes lit up.
I took his photo and then asked him: “Qual è la cosa più importante nella vita?”
What is the most important thing in life?
I handed him my journal to write his name and answer down.

He didn’t even have to think. “Salute!”

Study Abroad Florence Italy

Salute means good health and well-being, as well as a more informal way of saying cheers when you give a toast.

Baby, who I learned is really Constantine, is such a sweet man. He does not speak much English, but we were able to communicate very well through my broken Italian and exaggerated hand gestures. He invited me to come back to his restaurant for a meal. I love Italians and the high level of respect they have for food and hospitality.

I spent the rest of the night strolling through the beautiful city and eventually drinking wine and brushing up on my Italian in the Piazza del Duomo with a local I met along my walk.

“Do you like red beer?”
“I’ve never had it.”
“It tastes very angry.”
“Hahah angry? I don’t think that is the word you are looking for.”
“What is the opposite of sweet?”
“Sour?”
“Ah, yes! Sour.”

La vita è bella.
Life is beautiful.

Laurie Hamame

Ball of sunshine. Chronic giggler. A lover of all things sweet potato. An overly friendly, world traveling, body positive warrior. Avid bookworm. Self-proclaimed chef and spiritually Italian. Promotor of daily walks, coffee dates and 30-second dance parties.

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Laurie Hamame

Ball of sunshine. Chronic giggler. A lover of all things sweet potato. An overly friendly, world traveling, body positive warrior. Avid bookworm. Self-proclaimed chef and spiritually Italian. Promotor of daily walks, coffee dates and 30-second dance parties.

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