Even before the artists of the Italian Renaissance painted God in their own image, and Leonardo da Vinci delineated the figure of a man in a perfect circle, the concept of la bella figura – literally "the beautiful figure" – had begun to resonate in all aspects of Italian life.
In its more positive aspects, la bella figura is an expression of personal and national pride. In its more negative aspects, la bella figura reveals a rather sad superficiality: for instance, many people who flock to Portofino – the billionaire resort of the Ligurian Riviera – do so because they want to pretend, and often have to mortgage themselves to hire the finest car or yacht to feed their fantasies. In a similar vein, Italy’s erstwhile prime minister, a laughing stock to the rest of Europe, did not embarrass most Italians: his flamboyance kept the country on the world stage. Such behaviour could be said to be the very essence of la bella figura, which is basically all about showing off...
"Yet the bella figura isn’t just about fashion, the effort that goes into giving a good impression is what Italians do to show all is well in their world and they are doing just fine in life – whether they are or not."
King, C. (2012). Bella Figura and Brutta Figura: Italy’s Beauty and the Beast!. Retrived from http://www.italymagazine.com/featured-story/bella-figura-and-brutta-figura-italys-beauty-and-beast