La Vita Bella: Lessons from the Italians

There are people who enjoy life and then there are Italians.  Now, I’m not saying they have the market cornered on happiness as Italy certainly has its share of political and economic issues.  However, what the Italians do very well is live a life of pleasure and relaxation.  And if you find yourself either living without it, or needing to reconnect to your pleasure core, just book a flight and go!

For me, it was a slowly but surely, bite by bite journey to get to the place I am now.  The place that allows me to enjoy moments on a more intense and prolonged level and encourages me to help someone else come out of their American Shame and into a life meant to be sipped, tasted, and, well, totally experienced.

  1. The Sun Bath

The sun bath is an essential part of daily life for many Italians and isn’t relegated to beach time.  No, sun baths do and should occur at least once a day, given she’s out and shining down, and can be done anywhere, at any time of the year.  If you find yourself lunching with them on the

Photo from

steps of a cathedral or in a quaint piazza and suddenly their heads fall back, eyes closed, and have an expression on their faces somewhere between a smile and a prayer, follow suit and join them in this spontaneous solar worship.  I know it may be difficult to sit quietly for a moment, but once you allow yourself to submit, it will be adopted and carried into your more Anglo Saxon habits.  Thank god, right?


2. Mangia!

Food is fuel. Food is fuel.  Food is fuel.  Americans have a major issue with food and it is a major problem.  With our over processed menus and huge portions, we tend to feel guilty

Carrie and Valeria – Domus Pinsa Pizzeria, Rome, IT

when thinking about indulging.  However, when you’re in Italy you can relax a bit and just take in each bite.  First of all, food is processed, or should I say less processed, very differently.  Eating fresh and seasonal is not some hip trend, it is and has been the standard for centuries.  And, when you’re in Italy, you will be encouraged to allow yourself to not only enjoy the food, but take it slowly as to fully live the moment of each delicious bite.  Have the pasta, the wine, the whole pizza, and top it with a coffee or your favorite gelato.  This country is known  or its food and you’re welcome to it! Arm yourself with the proper utensils and dig in!

3. Beauty in Imperfection

Italy is an ancient country with ancient ruins, buildings, and ancient…ancients.  While there is always restoration happening to preserve these architectural treasures, plenty of

Napoli, IT

places still bear the marks of a rich history. Homes with erosion and age do not deter the Italians from remarking and respecting the beauty of these nearly sacred places.  Each dent, scratch, and exposed brick is a piece of the the whole, not be overlooked. And, this appreciation for imperfect beauty isn’t limited to old buildings and statues.  Italians have an eye for spotting truly beautiful people based on their spirit and confidence or the unique curve of a nose or brow. They appreciate art in all its forms and are quite complimentary to situations which may otherwise be overlooked by someone lacking the knowledge to see past a surface.

4. Baci, Baci

For many Americans, the double kiss is jarring and possibly off putting as it may come off as fake or forced.  It is a total stereo

Carrie and Mamala

type but a true one nonetheless. Kissing is a typical part of daily life in Italy. Whether you’re meeting an old friend and simply saying hello to a new one, you’re likely to be the recipient of the double kiss. And personally I love this.  Since Americans tend to regulate kissing to romantic situations, babies, or someone we only know very well, being kissed often and with a huge smile day after day lifts my spirits. In general, the Italians give and receive more affection to their family and friends than I was previously accustomed to in my own life. There’s never a day that I don’t feel appreciated and loved when I’m with my Italian friends.  They shower me with physical contact meant only to express admiration and love.  This is something I have adopted in my own American life with my people on this side of the pond.  And really, I feel like I’m doing a small part in changing the world by possibly changing someone’s day; giving a hug when one is desperately needed. I mean, the world needs more hugs, more kisses, more…amore.

5. Don’t Worry, Be Happy

Life is delicate, beautiful, scary,  and amazing.  Each day we are granted it a miracle and each day offers moments of happiness, even when the outlook is bleak.  And while I have

All smiles at Al Grottino

always had a pretty sunny disposition, my friendship with the Italians has heightened my awareness of shaking off the negative to give way to more clear thinking and a more positive spin on most situations.  See, it’s simple really – if you’re having a hard day, take a walk and allow yourself to rediscover the beauty around you.  So much of my time in Italy is spent doing just this.  Walking around in awe of the surroundings and the people; in awe of the company I am keeping.   And, at moments when I’ve found myself just low, I often resort to what I’ve learned and absorbed from my beloved Italian friends, “There is always a reason to smile”.




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