“Beauty is how you feel inside, and it reflects in your eyes. It is not something physical.” -Sophia Loren

Sophia Loren, boldly living. Photo: brilliantlectures.org

People living in Italy know the best way to live.

My boyfriend and I spent the majority of our Italian vacation this summer in northern Italy and fell in love with the lifestyle. In fact, any person with a soul who has vacationed in Italy has definitely left inspired for the same reason.

The group that specifically caught our attention was mid-aged Italian women. They had a got-it-going-on attitude and beauty to match. We often stared in awe at these women because of the grace, confidence and happiness they had at this stage of life.

I wondered, “How is this? In America, most mid-aged women I meet are the exact opposite.”

So while in Italy – in between my sips of wine – I decided to investigate this further. I started observing the culture and contemplating how it differs from my experience in the U.S.. Here are my findings:

3 Reasons Italian Women Are Different than American Women

(as observed in Italy by a self-proclaimed Rare Dame)

1. Italian women look at their best, no matter how young or old.

  • They used the best beauty products suited for them. For example, the makeup they wore was a perfect match for their skin and facial features. And hair length was past their shoulders, professionally cut and colored in a style that complimented their individuals features. 
  • Outfits were of modern style in sizes that fit them perfectly. Designer pieces or not, these ladies were well put together. And there were some mid-aged women with nice bodies rockin’ tight skirts, short shorts and tank tops (gasp) in a classy way. They were definitely werkin’ it!
  • Bodies were more fit due to a healthier lifestyle. From what I understand, most women do not eat or drink in excess. And it seems most people living near the city walk, bike, or scooter to their destination. For example, G and I often stayed in residential areas outside the main squares and walked everywhere – probably 3-5 miles of walking per day.
  • In America, when it comes to beauty and health, most of us either a) follow the trend or use what our best friend/favorite celebrity uses, b) rarely update our look as we age or c) live an unhealthy lifestyle with little to no exercise.  This can be a deadly combo of wrongness.

2. Italian women appreciated beauty and didn’t hate on other women.

  • They were confident in themselves and didn’t feel threatened by other women. For
    At Trattoria Pandemonio speaking with the co-owner. Florence, Italy

    example, my boyfriend who is much more proficient in the Italian language than I, overheard women talking about me in a positive way. He told me some women would say, “How beautiful!” or “I love her dress!” The best was in Florence, a gay guy saw me and said, “She’s stupendous” then saw my boyfriend and said, “You too!”

  • In America, there’s a full on Hater’s Convention (Dave Chappell show reference)! But seriously, some women do make insulting others a sport. It’s apparent in the reality shows we watch and sometimes the company we keep. And it’s a dreadful mistake that’s not working.

3. Italian women had a sense of well-being and happiness.

  • Woman are out and about just enjoying each moment of life. In all social settings, people looked like they were so happy – almost like they had a glow. Some examples include:
    • Going out at night holding her husband’s hand – or with the girls – talking, eating, drinking and laughing. FYI – the kids were NOT with them.
    • Or eating dinner and drinking wine…very slowly. Actually, food and wine taste so good in Italy, it should be a crime to rush that experience!
    • Or on their scooters, zipping through the streets just smiling.
  • Italian women looked stress-free. I don’t speak Italian, but I’m pretty sure their discussions
    Bologna, Italy: Even the dogs are more stressed than
    their owners. “Hurry up, I must read the Sunday paper!”

    weren’t stressing over how to look “perfect,” have the biggest house, or get that next promotion. By observing body language and interaction, conversations looked more intellectual and engaging. And it seemed that, no matter what age, people go out almost every night to eat, drink and have these intelligent discussions. 

  • In America, there are a couple things disrupting our overall happiness. First, we fake confidence, then buy some fake outside beauty and completely neglect our inside beauty. Second, our priorities are a mixed up. We must work for that promotion so we can get a bigger house, and then buy products that make us look “perfect.” In Italy, they work to live. In the U.S., we live to work…for more things. Third, we spend time with our boyfriend or groups of friends and complain about all the stuff we’re working for but still don’t have. And as a result, our faces have the stress of an unfulfilled life and unhappiness. This not good.

It seems these 3 things Italian women do creates a presence that makes one person notice another person in a positive way. Do they know some “Secret to Life” that I don’t?

5 Steps to “The Secret to Life” | Wisdom from Abroad

STEP 1: Enjoy each day & appreciate life
     Examples: Write a short list of what makes you happy and  prioritize doing those things once a week. Get your spiritual self in order. Eat healthier. Start a gratitude journal. Volunteer. Start a blog. Get a hobby. Exercise. Spend time truly engaging (this means actively listening) with others. The list can go on and on…just Google it. Or try this resource: Be-Happy and take the quiz at the end!
     Your start date: Today. Start to assess what makes you happy and do at least one of those things today.

STEP 2: Stop hatin’ on others and start improving your own life
     Explanation: Whether you’re rich or broke, speaking poorly of others makes you look insecure, spiteful and lazy. A good example of this are reality shows. Pick any one that primarily stars women and see the hate spew out of every one’s mouth Everyone can improve the situation they’re in – it just takes ACTION. Embrace the phrase, “You do you, Imma do me.”
    Your start date: Today. It’s a decision that you can make right now.

STEP 3: Look YOUR best at any age
     Examples on Beauty: For makeup, go to your favorite department store and directly to the cosmetics area for a free in-store consultation on the best way to update your look. Trust me, they’re the experts – not you. As for hair, same advice…you really do need to see an expert to help get the correct cut. If cost is a concern, know that most services are offered in a range prices. Once you’ve found the hair and makeup combo that works – USE IT!
     Examples on Fashion: Do you know which silhouettes are best for your body type? And which colors compliment your skin tone best? Do all of the clothes in your closet fit you perfectly and are worn once every 6 months? If you answered YES to these questions, then good job. If not, then work with a friend or professional that can help update your look by suggesting quality clothing that compliments your body type. Once you’ve found what works – WEAR IT (and please throw away those sweatpants)!
     Your start date: Today. Call today to set those appointments.

STEP 4: Be the best YOU there is in the world
     Quote: Author and entrepreneur Dave Pelzer once said, To help yourself, you must be yourself.

In Siena, Italy: A large family enjoying dinner together.

Be the best that you can be. When you make a mistake, learn from it, pick yourself up and move on.”
Stop living up to others’ expectations of you. If you don’t, you’ll regret it in the end: Top 5 Regrets of the Dying
     Your start date: Today. Again, it’s a decision that you can make right now.

STEP 5: Stop the chase that’s causing you all your stress
      Explanation: Now that enjoy each day, don’t hate on others, look and feel YOUR best, you now have less of a need for things.  You’re confident in yourself and no longer want to be the skinniest, richest, smartest…and have the hottest boyfriend/husband, the best house, and the cutest kids…and be the best cook all at once. This is because you accept this won’t EVER happen to you or anyone else you know all at the same time…

So now you can just let it go and enjoy life. Happiness will emanate from your body and suddenly…people will start complimenting you! It’ll be people on the street or at the food court, co-workers, husbands, friends and family. Living right, looking better and being happy is the ultimate beauty!
    Your start date:  Tomorrow and then everyday for the rest of your life.

That’s it. And the funny thing is…this really isn’t a secret. You already know your own Secret to Life. And you know it’s hard work too, but realize it’s definitely worth it.

You have to have the courage to start living it!

Any advice from women who live/have lived in Italy? Or any other travelers who have noticed the same things? What did I leave out?

(More info: High level cultural differences between Italians and Americans culturaltravel.net or more on differences in beauty jetsetlife.tv.)