BUDGET Dolce Vita

Kamin Mohammadi introduces her regular series on the Bella Figura Method

Ten years ago I was stuck in a rut. It was a glamorous rut, but a rut nonetheless. I had finally got my dream job in London, but, in crashing contradiction to all my expectations, it did not make me happy. What’s more, as well as sucking up all my time and making my heart race constantly with stress, it made me sick with digestive problems for which I could find no diagnosis nor cure. I piled on kilos of weight in spite of all the detoxes I did, my face erupted in acne, and I was always tired in spite of nights of sleep so long I felt like Snow White’s somnambulant sister.

I was suffering depression and burn out although, like many of us caught in the furiously spinning hamster wheel of modern life, I did not realise it. And then life gave me a break. Armed with a redundancy package and a one-way ticket, I went to stay in a friend’s flat in Florence.

 What I learnt about living, eating and loving in Florence I call the Bella Figura method – a nod to the Italian philosophy of making everything as beautiful as it can be for its own sake.

If you had told me when I first arrived that the holy grail of weight loss and healthy living was made of pasta, red wine and gelato, I would have laughed out loud. But this is exactly what I found in Florence.

The answer to my digestive and weight problems, the Tuscan diet of plenty of salad and veg, excellent olive oil and the odd glass of ruby-red Chianti, succeeded where so all others had failed. What’s more, the Italian lifestyle, with its slower pace and emphasis on beauty and pleasure, transformed me, banishing my depression and healing my burnt-out brain.

A decade later and I am still in Florence, married to the man I met at the end of my first year. What I learnt about living, eating and loving in Florence I call the Bella Figura method – a nod to the Italian philosophy of making everything as beautiful as it can be for its own sake.

A sort of Mediterranean mindfulness, it governs everything from how you walk down the street (with head held high not buried in a smartphone), to how you dress (with style not fashion), to how you manage your love life (with passion). It encompasses how to shop and what to eat, as well as showing how you can stay as slim as Italian women (statistically one of the slimmest in Europe) while still enjoying a glass of red wine and scoop of gelato. Living the Bella Figura method, it comes as no surprise to me that the Bloomberg Global Health Index recently put Italy at the top of its list of the world’s healthiest countries.

And the beauty of the Bella Figura method is that it does not require exotic ingredients that have been picked by a pink unicorn on the third highest peak of the Himalayas which require a second mortgage to buy. All it requires is a bit of attention, a new approach to fresh food and a tiny recalibration of daily life. And it is perfectly accessible, whether you live in Bournemouth, Brooklyn or Bologna.

Bella Figura, How to Live, Love and Eat the Italian Way is out now, published by Bloomsbury