There’s a saying in Italy, “Dolce far niente.” Translated it means, the sweetness of doing nothing.
I was introduced to this saying by an Italian gentleman I had the pleasure of sharing a bench with one crisp October afternoon in Florence, Italy.
One of my favorite things about traveling is what I learn, and not only about other cultures, but about myself.
I’ve had the pleasure of exploring many places in the world and so far Italy takes the cake in serving up wisdom and experiences that have changed me to my core.
Today I’m happy to share with you the sweetness of doing nothing and four other life lessons I learned in Italy. I hope you’ll appreciate them as much as I do!
1. Dolce Far Niente – The Sweetness of Doing Nothing
It’s becoming rare these days we do nothing.
Even when we don’t have anywhere to be or pressing to see it’s unlikely we sit and watch people pass by on the street or stare off into the clouds.
More often than not, we lunge for our phones and are transported into a digital world.
Italians know the sweetness of doing nothing.
They also know turning off and tuning out is restorative for our bodies, minds and souls. Not to mention one of the best ways to keep us present, mindful and aware.
When our heads aren’t looking down at our phones the world right in front of us opens up. And so do conversations with delightful Italian gentlemen!
2. There’s Brilliance in Napping
In Italy, an afternoon nap is as common as a morning espresso.
There’s no feelings of guilt, fears you’re allergic to something you ate, or urges to down a cappuccino and shake it off.
If you feel a dip in energy after lunch you simply lay down.
It’s astounding what a 10-20 minute nap can do.
It restores alertness, improves memory, productivity, reduces stress, improves mood and has numerous other health benefits. Plus it feels great!
Some of us associate napping with laziness. Or, think resting will get in the way of our plans to conquer the world.
But napping didn’t stop Thomas Edison, John F. Kennedy, Leonardo da Vinci, Salvador Dali, Winston Churchill, Eleanor Roosevelt and other well-known nap takers from inventing electricity, painting masterpieces, running countries and changing the world for the better.
Forget anything negative anyone has ever said about napping after a certain age and know it isn’t being lazy; it’s being loving.
3. Roll with It
Not one of us can control everything in life. Italians accept this far better than a recovering “control freak” like myself.
They know the palm tree is the strongest in the world, even more so than the great oak, because it bends with the wind.
Whether the day brings train delays, traffic jams, technology failures, unexpected weather or a ridiculous line at the local coffee house, the majority of the time getting upset won’t make any undesirable situation better.
Resisting, like swimming upstream, is taxing and can break us like the mighty oak in a windstorm.
More often than not, the best thing we can do when something like this appears in our day is to simply roll with it.
4. Indulge in food and drink in moderation
Italians don’t deprive themselves of sweets, carbs, or vino. They enjoy indulgences, but their secret is doing so in moderation.
I’m just going to say it. Moderation has never been my strong suit. It’s something I’ve been consciously working on for several years now. (And may be working on for several more!)
Up until recently in fact, it was almost painful to walk away from a table with even a bite of pasta left on my plate. (Possibly because when I was a child my grandfather said it was wasteful.)
Same with leaving even a drop of wine in my glass (possibly because my grandmother thought this to be wasteful).
For most of my life, instead of taking one bite or having one sip of something I’ve wanted to indulge I’ve gone 100% without.
But life isn’t supposed to be denied or resisted. (Nor is pizza, gelato or a good Chianti!)
We really can enjoy it all… just in moderation.
5. Enjoy Yourself
If you’ve ever seen the hashtag #ItaliansDoItBetter it’s certainly true when it comes to enjoying themselves.
In Italy, it’s not uncommon to come upon a restaurant or shop and find a sign that says they’re closed for vacation.
Even for an entire month!
Don’t get me wrong, Italians work hard when they’re working, but they know the quality of life depreciates when we’re consumed by work and they make time for vacations and other pleasures.
Whether it’s exploring a new place in the world, taking an afternoon stroll hand-in-hand with a lover, or sipping a cappuccino in a cafe after lunch, Italians know the purpose of life is to enjoy as much as possible.
To them, it isn’t something earned, or to be had only after putting in a hard-days work.
They know enjoyment’s our birthright.
And they leave the guilt behind!
Make time to enjoy yourself today,
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