Bringing Italy Back Home
Hi friends! As most of you already know, my husband and I were lucky enough to travel this fall to Italy for two weeks – yup, two weeks. It was glorious. We have been planning this trip for a little under a year, right after we got home from our honeymoon in Jamaica. It has been a dream of ours to go to Italy since day one. I think it was actually on our first date, we asked each other if we could go anywhere in the world, where would it be? And we both answered Italy… So we knew that one day we would make it there. We have been home for almost a month now – our luggage is unpacked, we are back to work, and we are already missing the sweet Italian life. Our memories will last a lifetime and there truly is no place like home, but I realized that we don’t have to “miss” everything about Italy. As we soaked up the Italian culture, we realized that there are a few aspects of Italy that we want to bring back home.
Living in the Moment
I know many people struggle with simply living in the present, even I do! Especially in America, our culture is so focused on what’s next… what are our plans next weekend, the next project at work, planning for the upcoming year. While this is great to prepare ourselves and plan our lives accordingly, it can sometimes distract us from truly soaking up the current moment in our life. Right now, today. Whether it is planning for a wedding, watching your children grow up (the good and challenging stages) or even just enjoying your routine morning cup of coffee. You guys, Italians do this effortlessly! They do not have to consciously tell themselves, “ok, I need to soak up this moment and truly savor it” – they just do! When they do something, whether it is getting lunch, shopping, or stopping at the café for a cappuccino – they are fully invested in just that one thing. It was so refreshing to witness and really reminded me – yes, that is how we should be living life.
At times, my husband and I will be sitting in the living room together with the TV on, he is doing work on his ipad while simultaneously updating his fantasy draft on his phone and I will be editing my last session while marco polo-ing my sister and bff. It’s ridiculous, but true. As Americans, we multitask like no other. Especially with so many electronics in our lives now, how can we not? But friends, doing this has the capability of distracting us from those special things in life. When you are trying to do twelve things at once, you are not fully investing your mind and heart to even one of them. So from now on, I am trying my best to do it how the Italians do – one thing at a time. I have already noticed an increased sense of calmness and almost a pause in time when I do this. Even while writing this post, I put my phone in airplane mode, so I am not distracted from texts or calls. We make it a point to put all distractions away before we sit down and watch a movie. Even while cooking dinner, I would keep my laptop open on the table to answer emails or online shop – now I keep my laptop in the office and just enjoy the process of being in the kitchen and cooking, one of my favorite things to do - now without any distractions so I can fully be present. This may be very challenging for you, but please just start with baby steps! I am not even kidding, you will appreciate and truly savor even the most mundane parts of your day.
Dolce far Niente
I will try to keep this one short, because it definitely correlates with living in the moment. This lesson has always been a struggle of mine. I am a busy body and always like to constantly be doing or working on something. Dolce far niente… the sweetness of doing nothing. The Italians are masters of this. I don’t want you to confuse this with just sitting around and being lazy. It is more like just simply being idle in the present and finding happiness and contentment in that state! Are you sensing a theme here? The Italians just really have their sense of time and how they spend it down pat. Isn’t it crazy how different each country manages their time – something that is somewhat universal? When I think of American time, these words come to mind: rushed, busy, constantly moving. Italian time: relaxed, paced, no pressure. We feel guilty if we have a day off and don’t get anything done on our to-do list. But guess what, that’s ok! Don’t allow yourself to feel guilty. You don’t need a reason to just relax and enjoy your day, possibly doing nothing but hanging out at home. Find peace in not having any plans (I know, gasp!) Take a nap with your dog. Forget about your chores until tomorrow. The lists can wait (Dad… I’m talking to you – he’s a notorious list maker) I think we measure the success of our day by how much we get done. Don’t get me wrong, I love the feeling of accomplishment and crossing things off my list. But try to free yourself from that feeling of pressure that you constantly have to be doing something. Add these moments of niente to your everyday life. Believe me, even if it is just five minutes, you will feel less stressed and just slow down and start to look at your world in a different light.
Ok friends, with the first two Italian tips I am bringing home – do you think they do meal times any different? Nope. They savor meals. Even more than savor, it is the best time of their day. I know it was the best time of my day while we were there : ) First of all, the food there is just simply amazing. The quality of the ingredients, the freshly made pasta, the presentation of our meals… but it was way more than that. The process of eating is really treasured in Italy. It’s not like “ok, scarf your meal down in two seconds because we have to go.” A true Italian would most likely skip a meal if they had to be somewhere because eating in a rush just simply does not happen there. After you order your meal the waiter basically does not return to your table. As Americans, we were at first like hello… where is the waiter?! But they do this for a reason. You have your food and wine, they want you to enjoy your meal unbothered. There is also a “cover charge” so to speak for each guest, so there is little incentive for tip. We still tipped, because it just feels weird not to.
There is no sense of urgency to leave or finish eating quickly. And absolutely never a sense of “we should go so someone else can have our table.” Most restaurants are small and have limited seating, depending on where you are at, but that doesn’t matter. This is also why reservations are very important for some places. I remember we went to this amazing restaurant in Rome and we did not make a reservation (oops) but they sat us downstairs in their wine cellar where there were two other tables set up. It was definitely for the non-reservation makers, but it was amazing. Meals are drawn out, but in a good way. The are paced perfectly. It’s a time to relax, connect with whoever you are eating with – even it that’s yourself. I loved it. It wasn’t just eating a meal, it was truly much bigger experience. At home, I will admit… we are true Americans and occasionally eat meals in front of the TV and watch Impractical Jokers (so funny) but we have been trying to eat Italian style more and more. At the table, connecting, maybe with some music on. Nothing will even come close to the food we ate and the places we dined at in Italy, but doing little things here and there certainly bring me back to that magical place. Try it yourself. Make meal time an experience, not just the next thing you eat. Cook with fresher ingredients – it tastes better and is better for you! Turn off the TV and truly connect with your family. Buon appetito!
Dress Like an Italian
While we were in Italy, I accepted the fact that I wasn’t going to have endless outfit options and blend right in with the Italians. Two weeks, one suitcase, 50 pound limit – you do the math. We were pretty focused on comfort seeing as we walked everywhere, climbed steps, took trains place to place, etc. Most days I rocked my Superga sneakers, a tshirt, and a scarf. At night I usually put on a dress and sandals. I did pack my favorite pair of wedges, but with all the cobblestone there… it was just not worth the possible trip to the Italian hospital for a broken ankle. But while we were there, I noticed that the Italians really put themselves together nicely. At times, it was hard to tell who was a tourist and who was a local – but I could usually tell based on their outfit ; ) They don’t really wear jeans there, it’s all slacks or skirts. The ladies always had their hair and makeup in pristine condition. Just imagine the prettiest scarves, jackets, shoes… they rock it all. I remember on one of our last days in Rome, I was standing outside our Airbnb waiting for Joe to get something inside. I see this woman walk down our street in the most glamourous red skater dress with red heels to match, while holding her Chanel bag on one arm and walking her little Pomeranian with the other. Huge sunglasses, red lipstick, and freshly blown out hair. Now that’s a true Roman woman! However, you have to remember we stayed in major cities where fashion and high end labels are huge! I loved walking down the street and seeing the crazy fashion statements people were wearing – especially in Florence! It was like a constant fashion show.
So the point I am trying to get to – Italians put in that extra effort in their clothes, style, hair and makeup, general presentation, etc. And it doesn’t come from a place of vanity or being smug, they just truly admire looking put together. It’s an important part of their culture to have that polished, presentable appearance. I’m obviously not going to be rocking my Gucci and Prada anytime soon (I basically only shop at Target and Marshall’s, just call me a fashionista) but my take away is that I want to present myself like an Italian. There are days (most days) I’m running into work with wet hair, no make up, and mismatched socks. I am going to start allowing myself more time to prepare for work, events, etc. Spend a little more time on getting yourself ready – put on some lip stick/gloss, do something different to your hair, wear that fancy outfit you have been wanting to bust out. Believe me, some days I’m all about comfort – and nothing is wrong with that. But there’s something about taking that time on yourself that boosts your mood, makes you walk taller, and puts a little pep in your step. So if you find yourself wearing yoga pants everyday of the week, you can’t remember the last time you plucked your eyebrows, and you’re still rocking your 80s hairstyle… just take ten more minutes for some self care, lady! You deserve it. I mean there was once a time of my life that I curled my hair before work! HAHA, that’s just simply laughable now… but I was trying to catch the love of my life’s attention and let’s just say I was incredibly successful. So here on out, I’m getting ready like the Italians do. I’m not curling my hair before work, that’s just ridiculous. But I will invest a little more time and thought on how I am presenting myself to the world. Not for others, but for me. Who’s with me?
Well friends, as you can see I could write a novel about Italy. Our experience was just simply unforgettable. You can see pictures and hear stories from your friends, but it is so much more magical in person. We cannot wait to go back – we loved every minute of it. At times we felt like fish out of water, but then at other times we felt right at home. Bringing little bits and pieces of Italy home makes me feel like we never left. Until next time Italia – arrivederci!