Looking for a job in Italy? You might need a ton of ‘bella presenza’

Ahh, la bella presenza. A brit friend of mine once asked what the f**k is this bella presenza they all ask in job ads? There’s not a proper word to translate bella presenza, and no, it has nothing to do with dress code or with corporate appearance. It is something that is widely asked for in job ads throughout Italy, and that, with no surprise (at least from me) is totally incorrect to ask for in other countries. And if you want to know what bella presenza is, I will give you a pair of hints. You must be at least 1.70-75 m tall (roughly 5,70″ – 90″), hopefully blonde, slim, and with a babe face. Does it sound wrong? It totally is. I cannot count the jobs I could not apply for because my presenza was not bella. And this goes even further: in the end, for the person who hires it is more important to hire someone who looks good than someone who is actually prepared for the job. Not all jobs ask this, but even FAO wants you to be bella (or bello) if you want to be  a conference host. All of this, to summarize, is known in other countries as discriminatory practices:

The Ninth Circuit determined United Airlines’ weight policy was discriminatory on its face. The court found that, although both men and women were subject to weight restrictions, the airline was imposing more burdensome weight restrictions on women by requiring female flight attendants to meet maximums for a medium-framed person while men were allowed to reach maximums for larger-framed persons. Finding that “United made no showing that having a disproportionately thinner female than male flight attendants bears a relation to flight attendants’ ability to greet passengers, push carts, move luggage, and, perhaps most important, provide physical assistance in emergencies,” the court reversed the district court’s decision. Id. at 855.


The quote above is a perfect example of what bella presenza is. It affects more women than men – it is more acceptable to hire an overweight man than it is to hire an overweight woman. A simple search on job boards in Italian, with the search query bella presenza returns a lot of ads. Even if you want to be a translator or an interpreter, you will need some bella presenza, too. Poor us, we thought that knowing the language and knowing how to translate it was the most important thing!

The Victorian Equal Opportunity & Human Rights Commission states the following:

Physical features discrimination

Discrimination is treating, or proposing to treat, someone unfavourably because of a personal characteristic protected by the law. This includes bullying someone because of a protected characteristic.

In Victoria it is against the law for someone to discriminate against you because of your physical features. Your physical features are your height, weight, size, shape or another bodily characteristic. These also include facial features, hair and birthmarks.

Example of physical features discrimination

A fast food company will only recruit people with a certain ‘look’, that is, a specific height, weight and build.

So, Italy, I think it’s about time to review some rules concerning discrimination on the work place, don’t you think? Your jobless youth does not need another stupid requirement to land on a job (there already are countless).




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