P.S.: It happened to me countless times, when abroad or speaking with non-Italians citizens, to receive this gesture, articulated in senseless ways, as an answer to my “I am Italian”, and…I don’t know, it has always been for me quite funny, but irritating at the same time.
My informant was born in Belgium from Italian immigrants and spent the first years of his life in Mons, before moving to Italy. Even after his transferring, he continued to visit many times his native country, and he had occasion of traveling and visiting a lot of world’s countries both for business and pleasure during his lifetime.
My informant talked about this piece -and then ‘performed’ it- in his living room.
I believe it is quite known that Italians gesticulate a lot with their hands while speaking, so much that they are told to ‘speak with their hands’. Many are, indeed, the natural hand and body gestures people from Italy use while communicating, and they represents, for the most part, a genuine and unconscious means of expression.
This particular piece my informant presents probably is the most famous one, which is often erroneously practiced by non-Italian speakers without acknowledging its real significance. As a matter of fact, this particular hand-gesture is the most-commonly used one to imitate and make fun of Italians, and it’s usually accompanied by nonsense exclamations like “pizza, pasta and mafia”. In reality, this gesture expresses and signifies concepts like “what are you saying?”, “who?”, “when”, so it is basically used to physically ‘supplement’ questions.