‘Ciao Mara’, I responded. I hadn’t seen her for a few weeks. ‘Quanto sei bella’, she stood back and continued to dissect me, ‘you are BEAUTIFUL’. I was always taken aback by the word ‘bella’. It seemed to be used so effortlessly and in my mind was not a good ‘truth’ indicator. People who barely knew each other would tap cheek to cheek and say,’ ciao bella’. Do you really think that I am bella? I asked myself time and time again. Do you really think that it is wise to call a person you have just met and do not know bella? How language differs country to country. In English, it would be highly unusual to address someone with ‘hi beautiful’. Even people who know you would think it strange!
I felt a tinge of embarrassment whenever anyone said ‘ciao bella’. I really didn’t know how to take it and it took me a decade to become acquainted with it’s usage. Needless to say the words didn’t slip off my tongue very easily.