Even if you do not know the Italian language I am sure you have heard the phrase “la bella vita” thrown around. “La bella vita” translated in English simply means “the beautiful life”. During my many stays in Italy I have come to terms that this phrase is best used in Italy because the Italians simply know how to live “the beautiful life”. By the way they dress, talk, take time to sip their coffee, and enjoy their family and friends the Italians truly enjoy life. I have taken home many lessons from my times in Italy. Here they are below in no particular order:
1. Enjoy life and stop and smell the coffee– In Italy you will not notice anyone running around like a crazy person with a travel mug in their hand. What you will see is little cafes filled to the brim with people enjoying an espresso or cappuccino while standing at a bar talking to friends. The Italians don’t rush their coffee- they sip and enjoy it. I myself have a habit of rushing to everywhere I go. What I really need to do is get up early enough to simply enjoy a cappuccino at Starbucks without taking it to go and rushing around like a mad woman to get to work. It truly is the simple things in life sometimes that can make you a much happier person.
2. Take care of yourself– “La bella figura”, or in English “the beautiful figure” is something many Italians live up to. This phrase doesn’t only mean to take care of your body but also defines the way you present yourself to the public eye. You will never see an Italian woman at the grocery store wearing pajamas. Here in America that is quite normal and in my college days I was even guilty of going to class in my pajamas. My goal from now on out is to make myself more presentable even if it is just to go to the grocery store. Italians show that when you show pride in yourself then others will also show pride in you.
3. Food is enjoyed best with family– Everyday in Italy most stores and businesses close between 12:30-3:30, and employees go home to enjoy a large lunch with their family. I love this concept because it gives you a little break in between working and you get to enjoy the time with people you love. I am lucky at the moment to have a job that gives me an hour lunch break so I do get to go home and enjoy lunch with my family, but if I were to get another job a little farther away I would most likely not be able to do that.
4. Politeness goes a long way – I find here in America many people enter and leave a store without even saying hello or bye to the store clerk. If you were to do this in Italy you would be considered rude. Honestly I think it is even rude that we do this in America, so I try to make sure that no matter what store I am in that I acknowledge the workers and say hello, bye, and thank you.
5. Enjoy life’s pleasures in moderation– Of course Italy is known for their many wines. They are home to some of the oldest wine producing regions in the world, and you will see most Italians enjoying a glass during dinner. The thing you most likely will not see is an Italian enjoying so much wine to the point of drunkenness. Italians are known for enjoying life’s indulgences in moderation. A glass or two of wine does not normally turn into 3,4,5 glasses of wine, and when you go to a gelato shop you will receive a decent portion in a small sized cup. I know myself that I need to learn this, especially with food. I have a love of sweets and pasta, and sometimes I over-indulge. Everything is best in moderation and the Italians know this best.
6. Take a break once in awhile– As I said earlier, a lot of businesses/restaurants/shops shut down during the middle of the day. This time is used to eat a big lunch with the family or even take a little nap. If you have ever seen the movie “Eat, Pray, Love”, you will hear one of the characters say this time is called “dolce far niente”, or “the sweetness of doing nothing”. I personally work 2 jobs during the week and when I do have a little time off I am rushing to the gym or rushing to the next event I have planned with my friends. “Dolce far niente” needs to become a more prominent existence in my life!
7. Enjoy more time being social– I am guilty of spending some quality time with my television watching a good tv show or movie. One thing I notice while I am in Italy is that I do not see many people in their houses laying on the couch watching tv. You will find people out and about on the streets socializing and most commonly meeting up in the piazza (town or city square).
8. Last but not least- Watch out for cab drivers- I guess this is anywhere, I know I’ve had my fair share of scary cab experiences while in Philly and NYC. My most scary one though was on the island of Ischia. The driver picked my family and I up from the town center and was taking us back to our hotel which of course was up a scary winding road on what I would call a cliff! He was driving so so fast I thought the cab was just going to fly right off the road and into the deep deep unkown, but I made it and I am here today writing this :).