There’s a reason they call it an art–and if you’re looking for the masters, just come to Italy.
This month, my favorite band of miscreant bloggers (or as you probably know them, the members of C.O.S.I) have tackled an immensely complicated subject–the concept of furbizia or as I like to call it, being a con-artist. As you may know, being furbo is quite the complement in Italy–indeed, the more furbo you are, the more likely you are to be praised by your peers and regarded in high esteem. So what is being furbo? Aside from the general definitions of cleverness or craftiness, it basically implies a willingness to do or say whatever you want in order to get what you desire. If you’re still unsure of the meaning, just google Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s #1 furbo, and you’ll start to get the picture.
It’s hard for me to fully explain my feelings on the matter, mostly because I rarely recognize when I am being conned until it’s too late. Growing up in a white suburban middle-class neighborhood, the only experience I ever had with furbi was in the form of these bad boys:
You would think that after 7 years in Italy, finally being able to recognize when I am being conned would make me the most bitter anti-furbo person on the planet, but the truth is that I understand why this is such a popular behavior. Living in a country where being honest has more disadvantages than advantages, it’s pretty easy to fall into the predictable patterns of con-artistry, especially if you are being encouraged by your Italian counterparts who praise you for your intellect and skill while weaseling your way through life. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been scolded by Italian friends for paying the full amount for a mediocre meal, or not cutting the line at the first glimpse of an opening. And I would be lying if I said that I had never employed my own version of furbizia from time to time–I am only human, after all, and a woman so obviously I know how to get what I want. Luckily, I find a perverse satisfaction in doing things in the most difficult way possible so there is no danger in me becoming Mrs. Furba anytime soon, but I can definitely see the attraction in behaving so shamelessly.
In short, Italy has taught me some important life lessons when it comes to trickery and guile. However, my parting words for anyone thinking to pull a fast one on me would be this: Karma’s a bitch. You’ve been warned.
Check out other musings on furbizia from C.O.S.I here:
Girl In Florence- Why Being Furbo in Italy Is Anything But Cool
Rick’s Rome- What Does It Mean To Be Furbo?
Surviving in Italy- Furbizia: The Italian Art of Being Sly
Englishman in Italy- Furbizia
Unwilling Expat- The Complexity of Italy’s Cheating Heart
Sex, Lies & Nutella- Tourists Beware: Fighting Furbizia in Italy
Married to Italy- Furbizia–A Blessing or a Burden?