La Dolce Vita: 4 Lessons I’ve Learned While Living in Italy
by Greenheart Travel alumna, Hannah Frey-Hawkins
Dai (dahyee) loosely translates into English as “really?” or “come on!” Italians are known for being bon vivants or people who live according to the pleasure principle. They enjoy good food and drink, and live a relaxed lifestyle.
So an offer for (another) shot of espresso or an extra serving of pasta is often followed by the word “dai.” It is not meant to scare you (although it may at first), but rather, it is meant as a reminder that every experience is meant to be shared and enjoyed.
Here are four additional life lessons I learned from living in Italy for two months.
An Italian Lesson on Food
We’re all pretty well-informed on the perils of eating pizza, pasta and pastries everyday, but that doesn’t stop Italians from eating these things on the reg. They have an affinity for all things dolce (sweet). However, the major difference between Americans and Italians is that they never gorge themselves.
Dining in Italy is a very unique experience. Each meal is eaten slowly (some meals may take up to 3 hours) and is often accompanied by good friends and family. Additionally, the food is usually made with fresh, local ingredients.
Eat, breathe and love the food you’re eating. It is meant to be tasted and savored.
A Lesson on Love
Italians are some of the most social and tactile people I have ever met. They love love and are very passionate about their culture that is centered around beauty, romance and the Italian language. Italians are known for being extremely friendly, loyal and affectionate.
You can expect to be kissed upon every greeting (whether or not you know them). However, unlike their American counterparts, Italians are not one for self-restraint. They will laugh, cry, shout or argue at the top of their lungs. But despite these prolonged bouts of rage, they will always have your back.
Once you befriend an Italian, you are bound for life.
A Lesson on Family
Family is an Italian’s number one priority. (Yes, even before futbol.) Some Italian families are so large they could populate a small country; but this also means that they are abundant in love, generosity and, of course, food.
In fact, Sundays are dedicated solely to food and family. Typically, members of a family all live relatively close to one another making it easy to stop by for tea in the afternoon. Need help? No problem. Just call one of the fifty cousins in the area. Oh, and don’t forgot to stop by nonno and nonna’s house for some homemade pasta.
If you have the profound fortune to be a part of an Italian family, your heart (and stomach) will always be full.
A Lesson on Living
Italians take pride in the rich cultural, culinary, artistic and local traditions of each community, creating a distinctive way of life, or as they call it “la dolce vita.” Life in Italy is very slow (though their driving would suggest otherwise).
Italian’s believe in multiple cups of coffee, leisurely meals and long strolls down cobblestone roads. People leave their jobs from 12:00-3:00 everyday to eat lunch, drink wine and take naps. Naturally, as an American, you’ll want to fill the empty space with clutter and busy work.
But once you learn how to slow down and explore your surroundings, you’ll begin to see, hear and appreciate things you never thought imaginable.
Learning to appreciate the small, quiet moments in life is difficult; especially for someone who’s accustomed to filling their day with mindless obligations. After living in Italy, I learned to fill my days with quality, not quantity. I developed lifelong friendships and gained a second family. I ate the food, drank the wine, learned a new language, lived, laughed and most importantly…loved.