Tag Archives: la bella figura

High maintenance

24 Feb
I’ve been meaning to write about the odd assortment of pedicures I have had in Italy. It took me a few appointments to finally settle into a salon and services that I could enjoy and where the results are good, but the journey has been interesting….
Nail salons are important here. In fact, every type of personal appearance maintenance is very important: nails, hair, massage, waxing — esthetics of every kind. Many women have their nails done, both hands and feet, on a regular basis. After all, one must maintain la bella figura. One of my favorite bloggers, Mozzarella Mamma, did a wonderful post on the female beauty scene  http://www.mozzarellamamma.com/2011/linguini-and-luscious-legs/ . Go ahead, read it, laugh out loud, then come back to finish reading this post. I’ll wait.
Welcome back; now on to my own experiences.  I am addicted to pedicures-as-therapy and have been for years. Ric will tell you that my personal maintenance is a line-item in the household budget. It’s certainly cheaper than psychotherapy.
My Italian salon adventures started in Sorrento when we were on vacation over a year ago. Mid-vacation I wanted a pedicure. We were tromping about Italy to the tune of 6-10 miles a day. My toes needed a little pampering and I was looking forward to a strong leg massage.  Ric was looking forward to two hours of my absence so he could take a nap. I asked the concierge at our hotel to recommend a place, and he pointed me to a nearby salon: “It’s where the general manager’s wife goes.” Good enough for me.  Ha!
Arriving at the salon, I was led down a narrow, steep stairway to a dim cubicle in the basement. I was seated in a straight-backed chair on a platform and the nail tech had me place my tootsies in a plastic basin of tepid water.  No comfy vibrating chair, no swirling whirlpool of warm, scented bubbles to sooth my tired feet: just tepid water. In December. From there the treatment proceeded on course with what one might expect until we got to the “massage:” a half-hearted application of lotion. Ric does a better foot massage for me when he’s half asleep. Then it took a turn for the worse:  No lovely, shiny, top coat seal-of-protection for my newly painted digits. When asked, the nail tech had no idea what I was talking about. By the time I returned to the hotel, my polish was already scuffed.  €30.00 flushed, and not exactly una bella figura.
Arriving in Rome last May, I sought out a recommended salon near the Embassy. Based on Mozzarella Mamma’s post, I figured Roman salons would meet my expectations. This one did a good job including a whirlpool footbath, comfy chair, decent massage, used some of the best polishes made, perfect top coat; but very expensive.  I’d need to shop around. 
A few weeks later, I moved on to Salon #2, conveniently located on my commute home.  Again with the tepid basin of water. This nail tech explained that warm water was bad for my feet. Huh. Following the no-massage massage there was NO TOP COAT. “Signora, if I put on more polish they will never dry.” Listen? Do you hear the sound of €35 being flushed? The polish dried, but again it scuffed on the way home. 
Returning to the high-end salon, I was assigned the resident Amazon, a muscular lass of about 6’2” (remember the man-hands episode on “Seinfeld?”) who proceeded to cut my cuticle so deep I bled into the swirling whirlpool foot bath and styptic powder was required. (Her strong hands gave a heck of a massage, though.)  Nice nails, but a nasty cut. So maybe a high-end hotel would do the trick. I hit Salon #3 on Via Veneto. 
Escorted to a quiet and luxurious treatment room, I was instructed to lie on a massage table and make myself comfortable. “We’re doing a pedicure?” (I asked just to make sure I wasn’t supposed to be naked at this point. In Italy one never knows.)  “Si, signora, just relax.” The tech brought, guess what? A bowl of tepid water to the table, bent my legs and situated my feet in said plastic basin of tepidness. Yup, I’m really relaxed now, with my knees in the air and my feet in tepid water.  Really happy I wore a skirt so I could maximize my exposure. At least they used a top coat so the polish lasted.  
So I have returned to the high-end place by the Embassy, where I have settled into a routine of dependable service, nice people, un caffè while I soak, and no more injuries to date. Sometimes there’s even a little dog in the lap of the woman seated next to me. I like that. The price of pampering can be high, as is the price of maintaining one’s bella figura.
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