A culture of beauty

The Italian culture loves beauty, depends on beauty, is addicted to beauty. The single word to describe all good things, whether they mean great, terrific, wonderful, marvelous, fantastic, satisfying, or well done, is bello.

The roots go way, way back.

Even the Etruscans, the people who occupied the peninsula between the Arno (Florence) and Tiber (Rome) Rivers in the first millennium B.C. before they were ultimately conquered and wiped out by the Romans toward the end of that period, were lovers of beauty. Visit the Etruscan museum at the Villa Giulia in Rome and you will see their civilization, taken whole from the many burial grounds they left behind. There are perfume bottles, containers for makeup, rings that went into hair, and large baskets into which all the combs, brushes, ointments, and powders were put in an effort to please the gods, to make themselves beautiful in the eyes of the deities so that the beauty of their bodies would reflect the beauty of their souls.

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And that’s how it stood until Judaism and then Christianity came along to break the connection between outer magnificence and inner purity. The one no longer had anything to do with the other.

Epstein, Alan. As the Romans Do: The Delights, Dramas, And Daily Diversio (pp. 75-76). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

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