It seems appropriate that I met the author of Bella Figura, Kamin Mohammadi, by chance in the most stylish of cities - Milan - in the country she now calls home.
I was struck, perhaps star-struck, by her confidence and joie de vivre which lit her up from within and which led me – under no obligation – to read her book.
Kamin did not travel, like the rest of us fellow travel journalists, across from a grey England on a plane but by train from her glamorous Italian country home atop a hillside amid the Tuscan olive groves.
Much as I love my native leafy Lancashire, it doesn’t have quite the same romantic cachet in the telling, so as we toured the streets of Leonardo’s Milan I listened to her life story with fascination.
She and her family escaped revolutionary Iran in 1979 and made London their home, where Kamin forged a journalistic career amid the national and international newspapers and glossy magazines of the fast-moving capital.
On paper her life would be the envy of many, but inside she admits was dying bit by bit, struggling emotionally with a failed relationship, stress and battles with her weight and skin. She was a shadow of herself.
So, after being made redundant, she escaped via a flight to Florence and the loan of a friend’s flat.
Her Bella Figura journey was born.
But Bella Figura – or the book it was to become – is not just Kamin’s story but a life enhancing guide on how to live, love and eat the Italian way.
Bella Figura, interpreted literally by the dictionary, means fine figure, fine appearance or impression but the sum of its parts is a way of life, one that transformed Kamin’s physical and mental health and self-worth.
It allowed her to embrace life and love herself.
Through the pages we follow the high, lows and humour of her journey, from plumbers teaching her the basic of pasta sauce to roaming the markets for fresh produce, learning self-care and pride and experiencing romance the Italian way.
It’s a gentle, compelling, tale of growth and many will relate, like I did, to the early Kamin lost in the day to day with little sense of self.
Through her words you are pulled irresistibly along her journey, learning as you follow through timely and seasonal recipes which are peppered throughout while she beckons you into her world.
Meanwhile you are introduced to fascinating corners of Florence, from the markets to the festivals and the chance encounters and charming interactions with the many characters she meets.
It’s life affirming stuff and telling that I – not normally a massive fan of autobiographies – lapped up this one until the very end and then immediately made a nourishing fresh meal.
Because if there is one thing meeting Kamin and reading La Bella Figura taught me, it’s La Dolce Vita will not come looking for you.
You have to find it.
You can buy Bella Figura via Amazon HERE