Linguini and Luscious Legs

Photo by Nicolee Drake. iPhone

The summer in Italy is a particularly trying time for a woman, especially in the sunny South.  Rome is boiling hot in July and August, and Romans clear out of the city, heading for the mountains or beaches, leaving the tourists to swelter as they plod from the Coliseum to St. Peter’s Square.  Anyone who has to work is particularly miserable.  Italians, for the most part, don’t believe in air conditioners.  They think they are unnatural, unhealthy, and a sure source of colds and fevers.  So a woman in Italy must spend her summer minimally dressed.  Shorts are strictly out, almost as bad as having a cappuccino after lunch, so this means mini-skirts and sundresses.

The dress code results in all sorts of frustrations and humiliations.  For example, I spend May through September in sandals.  There are lovely, cheap sandals to buy everywhere, and they are the most comfortable footwear for the hot months.  One summer, I was sitting in a coffee bar with a few colleagues.  At the time we had a beautiful intern in our office with mile-long legs, perfectly messy hair, and a melodious voice.  It was a desperately hot day.  I turned to her and asked her how she could possibly be wearing closed leather shoes in the hot weather.  She explained that her boyfriend could not bear the sight of female feet unless they were perfect.

For the first time in years I looked down and took note of my feet:  they were crusty and callousy with red blotches.  My toenails looked scruffy and I even noticed a little dirt at the side of one big toenail.

I became terribly self-conscious.  I then began noticing the feet of all the Italian women wearing sandals:  they were perfect.  Perfectly tanned and manicured, they had no calluses or crusty skin.  I began asking them how they did it.  Weekly pedicures, of course.  Well, how on earth is a working mamma with three children supposed to find time for weekly pedicures?  I was always so happy when sandal season began because I did not have to waste any more time in the morning looking for socks. So much for that.

But it is not only feet that are a problem for the poor Italian mamma.  There is the inevitable problem of hair removal, which becomes the obsession of Italian women from April until October.  They wax, pluck, tweeze and get laser treatments until they look like plucked chickens in a supermarket.  At any female gathering in the summer, the conversation eventually rolls around to hair removal.  I vividly remember taking my children to a mamma get-together at a summer home one-hour’s drive from Rome.  As our children romped on the lawn, the mammas sat around a picnic table, chatting.  Shortly after I arrived, an attractive mamma in a small black sundress, with perfectly pedicured feet, began to talk about the wonders of permanent hair removal by laser treatment.  Before I knew what was happening, she stood up and lifted her dress to show her flat, tanned hairless stomach.

“See,” she said, “I had the doctor permanently remove all the little dark hairs that were between my belly button and my crotch.  It is perfect now.”

I suddenly felt every hair on my body standing on end.  I felt like my eyebrows looked like Krushchev’s, and my legs and arms looked like I was a gorilla just escaped from the jungle.  I could not bring myself to take part in the conversation. I stood up. “Caterina,” I called cheerfully, “come on, sweetie, let’s go change that diaper.” I took a step towards my toddler.

Suddenly I felt I should bend down and put my knuckles on the ground and walk away like the hairy gorilla that I must be.  But if I was a hairy gorilla, what was the ideal we were aiming for?  Skinny, scrawny, well-plucked legs and plump opulent breasts?  Sounds more like a turkey than a woman to me.

A British friend of mine moved to Rome in the early summer and was immediately absorbed in the great hair obsession.  Shortly after her arrival, when her Italian was still a little shaky, she made an appointment with one of Rome’s ubiquitous estetistas (estheticians) to get her legs waxed.  She arrived for her appointment and lay down on the bed for the torture session.  The estetista strip-strapped her way through my friend’s legs and then said, “Would you like me to do your l’inguine?” (L’inguine means bikini line, or crotch area, in Italian.)  My poor friend, assuming that the conversation had turned, as it inevitably does in Italy, to pasta, immediately responded in her rough Italian, “Yes, of course, I like linguini.” Much to my friend’s dismay, the estetista lifted up her dress and began shoving her underwear around. “What are you doing?” my very British friend nearly shouted. “I am preparing your l’inguine for waxing,” said the startled estetista.

Every summer the great hair debate inevitably wormed its way into APTN’s office.  Francesca and I would wait until the cameramen were out to lunch before launching into serious discussions of waxing and plucking and tweezing.  One day Francesca claimed her sister had discovered a miracle machine.  It was an electric machine that plucked hairs out of your legs.  She insisted I try it and brought it into the office in a plastic bag and quietly slipped it to me when no one was looking.

That night I waited until the children were asleep and Gustavo was busy at his desk in the living room.  I snuck into the bathroom with the little machine and read the instructions three times over.  Then I turned it on.  The noise was like a kitchen blender turned on full blast.  I delicately placed it against my calf.  PAIN AND AGONY.  I felt like it was chopping up my leg.  I thought of Francesca and her favorite word, suffering. I had to suffer. For one hour I tortured myself using the automatic chicken plucker to massacre my leg.

Finally, with one leg looking like mincemeat, I marched out to the living room.  Gustavo was lying on the rug with papers spread out all around him.  I went and placed my mincemeat leg in front of his nose. “Look at my leg?” I said. “Looks pretty bad,” he answered. “Didn’t you hear all that noise in the bathroom, weren’t you worried about me?  I just spent an hour chopping my leg to bits with a stupid hair plucker that Francesca gave me and you don’t even care?  I could have done serious damage to myself and with all that racket you did not even come to check and see I was all right!”

“Look,” he said, “when a woman goes in the bathroom and locks the door, we men do not want to know what she is doing in there.”  “Well, what do you think I should do now?” I said half-laughing, half-whimpering. “I am certainly not going to turn my other leg into mincemeat.” “Per favore, Treeeeeesha, can’t you see I’m working? What the hell do I care about what you do with your mincemeat leg!!”

The next day, sweating it out at work in pants, I gave Francesca back her mincemeat maker and called a nearby estetista for a waxing appointment.  “And what will you be getting waxed today?” the receptionist asked. “Give me the works,” I said, “the linguini, the tortellini, the spaghetti.” The receptionist did not understand my little joke.

36 thoughts on “Linguini and Luscious Legs”

  1. OMG, this is hysterical! And can I say, that while I”ve certainly done share of being tortured every summer while getting my “linguine” waxed, I didn’t how important the whole feet/leg thing was until just last week. I get regular pedicures, so I thought I was ok. But last week, after twenty years of marriage, my Italian husband makes a crack regarding “the way Italian women have those perfect tan legs and feet, with no hair and no splotches.” Who knew?

    1. Elizabeth — Thanks for your comment. For the moment my husband does not want me blogging about him so I will have to hold back on all my silly posts about what it is like being married to an Italian man (who notices un-luscious legs), and whose Mamma still buys his underwear and socks. (woops, did I just write that? Just kidding, really). Please keep reading the blog and pass it on to friends. Ciao, Trisha

  2. This is so funny…and so true!! I’m an American woman living in Italy and no one can understand how I got to be middle aged without ever having my legs waxed or eyebrows plucked. Here the girls start with waxing their legs at about 14 I think. I may try it myself next summer if it means no shaving for three weeks during the summer! I just had my eyebrows shaped for the first time (by plucking) and I was surprised at how much it HURT! Being a well-groomed Italian lady isn’t easy. Thanks for the chuckle!


    1. Diane — Thanks for your comment. I will be blogging more about the struggles of being a woman in Italy. In particular, I find it difficult to live in the big-breasted, long-leggy Velina culture that has seemed to dominate here in the past 15 years. Italians need to bring back the Anna Magnani types and get rid of the omnipresent show-girls.

  3. che simpatica!!! ho tradotto il sito in italiano per cui alcune battute non erano tanto chiare ma mi hai regalato una bella risata!!! Sono amica di M. Grazia Murru mi ha girato lei il tuo link! Un abbraccio e tanti auguri

    1. Michi — Grazie tantissimo per tuo commento — sono felicissima di sentire che c’e’ un’italiana che legge mio blog. Spero che continuerai.

  4. Thanks for a terrific laugh. An out loud at 7:30 AM belly laugh. Oh my, but I can relate! This is my first visit to your blog, and I can say I love it. Thanks for a perfect start to my day. By the way, out here in sunny southern California, we too are in search of the smooth skin look. It is not easy…

    1. Thank you for your comment. I am so happy I made you laugh. There will definitely be more to come on this blog on the frustrations of being a woman in Italy — like the national big boob obsession. I hope you keep following, and please do me a favor and pass on the link, I will need lots of followers if I am ever going to publish my book! Ciao, Trisha

  5. ROFL – Thanks for starting my day with a smile. This was hysterical. I happened upon your blog by accident and glad I did……and how times have changed. I remember my distant past being on the train to Ostia and when a woman reached to grab the hold-bar she had as much hair as big foot under her arm……BTW, any tips on keeping that pedicure while wearing sandals on a moto?

    1. Lisa — I am so happy to have you reading my blog. You are totally right about the BIG FOOT Hairy armpits of the past. I want to attach here a photo of the number one Italian Sex Symbol, Sophia Loren, with arms raised and bushy pits revealed. Unfortunately I have not figured out how to attach photos to replies, but I will work on that one. No idea how to keep the feet looking good on the motorino. I am always the one with the scruffy, yucky feet! Ciao, Trisha

    2. Lisa at Wanderlust — check this out. I finally figured out how to stick a photo in a reply. So here is Sophia Loren — pre-estetista!

  6. This was so funny and so true. I’m a young mom of a 3 year old boy who just started ‘scuola dell’infanzia’ this week. First day of school my danish husband & I were literally shocked of how dressed up and perfectly tanned & trimmed the Italian moms were…it was a true fashion show. I couldn’t help notice their smooth, hair free legs, pedicured feet & flat tummies.. I totally witnessed the ‘velina’ look obsession!

    1. Tina – I am so glad you like my blog. Please keep on reading it. There will be more on schools — the important role of the mamma taste-tester for the school cafeteria, the beautiful mammas who bring their kids to school with their cute little dogs and let them poop all over the sidewalk outside and don’t clean it up (even though most of the kids step in it), the nursery school teachers that give you daily, detailed reports on what your child ate for lunch, etc etc. Just keep your sense of humor and you will love Italian public schools (and remember the moms are the ones who have to buy the toilet paper because there never is any). Ciao, Trisha

  7. Hilarious, happy to have discovered your blog! I could never keep up with the Italian women either – and the hair is the tip of the iceberg isn’t it…
    Looking forward to reading more, and I will definitely share this.

    1. Thank you Madeline — and you are right, hair is definitely just the tip of the iceberg. Lots more to come on the keeping up the looks and bella figura.

  8. Hello everyone! Have you ever called on the phone to get your appointment for a ‘ceretta all’inguine’ (wax)? It is a great experience to go through. My esthetician works in a haidresser’s. The salon’s owner is a man and unluckily he is the one who gets the phone calls there. So, when I ask for the appointment he usually says: “what for?” I say: “per una ceretta”. But they want you to be more specific just in case you are King Kong: if so they obviously need to plan a couple of days for you. And so he insists: “intera o mezza?” (full or mid-thigh?). Why doesn’t he just let me speak to her, to the esthetician? I don’t know. I usually take a deep breath, trying to convince myself that I’m not on the phone with the hairdresser but that I am actually a liberated women activist group leader who states with an unconcerned and casual voice: “inguine”. The day you go in there, be sure that someone will shout as loud as possible that “the lady for the inguine is here”. What can you do? The only thing one can do on the prink of a precipice: look at your watch, pretending to be late to a non-existent appointment and forget about all the customers’ eyes that are just happily staring at ‘Lady Inguine’.

  9. Giovanni Delmonte

    I have fresh herbs from my Tuscan you or any of you interesting friends know what to do with them?

    1. Thank you Giovanni! I have a category in my blog called Food Fiascos– there is only one post now, but as I continue you will find that I am a disaster in the kitchen. But maybe some of my readers can find something to do with your Tuscan herbs. A little rosemary anyone?

    2. Make an herb salad! Not with rosemary or sage, but chervil, basil, etc. are all super. you can just toss them with salad greens. I had a great pomegranite, dill and lettuce salad in Turkey this year. Sorry, I know this is a blog about Italy, but, it’s closeby? :)

      OR you can infuse your olive oil with fresh herbs – put the washed and totally dried herbs in a bottle, cover totally with olive oil (nothing can peek out, it will mold) and leave out of the sun for a week or so – makes nice herby oil. :)

  10. Totally hilarious! Still chuckling and now very self concious of my hairy legs and non pedicured toes. Oh and my hair could use a cut, and the wardorbe needs some new clothes…. where to start??? I always leave myself at the bottom of the list, time to go to the top.

    ciao Lisa

    1. I totally agree Lisa. We mammas have mile long to-do lists and the pedicure usually isn’t at the top of it!!

  11. Ciao mi sono veramente divertita a leggere i post ed ho cominciato a diffondere la voce. A proposito di questo post su pedicure e ceretta venerdì ad ora di pranzo ero distrutta con 5 cm di ricrescita nei capelli e con i piedi che non vedevano un pedicure da mesi mi sono sentita dire da una mia collega: a Marilù nun te si pò guardà… poche ed efficaci parole che mi hanno fatto trovare il tempo sabato mattina di andare dal parrucchiere a risolvere i problemi!!!!

  12. You made me laugh Trisha and it’s everything you tell so true! Being italian but having spent part of my life abroad, i fully understand your point of view! I will write again! Good luck Lorella

    1. To all my readers Lorella Zanardo is one the most impressive women I know in Italy. I will have more on her work in future posts. She has single-handedly brought the attention of the Italian public to the horrors of the “Velina” (scantily dressed show-girls) culture. She is doing a vitally important job now traveling to schools and talking to young people about women in society, teaching them that there are more role models out there than the TV showgirls. Check out her website at and see her incredible documentary of the same name. On You Tube you can find a sub-titled English version under Women’s Bodies. It will knock your socks off. Lorella is determined and courageous and I am proud to know her.

  13. LOL Trisha. Well written with great vivid descriptions! Something I missed on our visit to Italy, but we were there in winter so it wouldn’t have been so apparent. I’m sure glad to be here in Seattle where a much slimmer part of the population cares about pedicures and hair-free legs. Of course, we only had about 2 weeks this summer where we could wear sandals and bare our bear legs anyway. Thanks for the fun reading :)

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