|Photo from here|
Translated literally as The Beautiful Figure. It is very important in Italy how you dress, it has to be 'right', at least right in the eyes of Italians. You don't need to be fashionable, but do need a sense of style, be tidy but above ll be 'correct'. I won't even try to tell you what correct is, I haven't lived there enough to get it right myself you imbue the knowledge over time, best to be born there otherwise if you emigrate it will be a while before you start to prove yourself with your clothing and how to put it together to integrate fully. Before that Italians won't see you as being correct and probably won't have any compunction in holding back to tell you where you are going wrong. Going wrong is easy to explain,less so is the explaining in ow to get it right. You will get there but it takes time.
Bella Figura doesn't just mean what and how you put yourself together style wise but also your behaviour. It's a funny thing as people always think how easy it must be to live in Italy, how slow and relaxed the people are but actually it can be a bit of a minefield. Say the wrong thing and round the town it will go, however innocuous it may have seemed. The same for doing the wrong thing. Eat at the wrong time of day, drink a coffee a the wrong time and whoops you've committed a 'Brutta Figura' an ugly figure, which people will then think of you. It's basically creating a good impression, letting people realise you know how to behave, usually it's pretty obvious being helpful, gracious etc. Bit occasionally it's more complex such as not wearing trousers when you should have worn a dress. For myself I think I must live a Brutta Figura life when I'm over there as I know my clothes are too scruffy, too unstylish and I drink coffee at all times of the day and add far too much milk sometimes. I don't move forward to give the obligatory kiss and so many other blunders it's a wonder I don't have a stamp on my forehead given to me by people for making so many. But they forgive me, plus i don't hear what they are probably saying to each other.
So, it's about creating a good impression about yourself and your family, through what you wear and how you wear it, how you present your home, what you feed your guests at meals, where you eat out,where you shop, s many small things but all noticed by other people and probably talked about - Italians do gossip, it is practically cultural to do so. That is the point of the Bella Figura, it's not just who sees but who they tell. If you get it right all is well, if you don't it's not really a problem they won't think the less of you but do try harder next time.