It has been a year since I left the safety of my friends, family and safety and set off for the adventure of a lifetime: studying abroad in Italy. I didn’t know that my luggage would be lost for a week, and I would learn that I could survive off one outfit, no makeup, no hair products and no razor. I didn’t know that I would learn to set my fears and anguishes aside and “live in the moment”. And, I didn’t know that I would come back a month later and live my life almost no differently, other than the fact that I had some great new friends, and a newfound love for wine.
Browsing through my Timehop, I see a different person. I see a carefree, fun, excited human being who is just happy to be alive and be observant.
I think to myself, “Why can’t I be like that?”
And then I come up with these crazy dreams in my head to run away and live in Italy. I imagine a life full of fun, adventure and sexy Italian men. I read books on travel, and I am filled with wanderlust. I sit at my desk and dream of the day I can be that carefree again. I dream of the day I can just write all the time in café’s. I dream of the day I can return to Italy, for good, because only there am I truly happy.
But, then I think to myself, “Was Italy the reason I changed? Or, was I just determined to embrace every moment and enjoy it?”
Honestly, it was probably a little bit due to the magic of living abroad, but it was mostly me.
I decided I wanted to have fun. I decided to “eat the pizza”. I decided to make out with a stranger in the middle of a bar. I decided to go to cafes during the day and write my life away, while spending the mornings or evenings taking pictures. I decided to go to new places, experience new things, and talk to new people. All of these things were MY decisions, and I had a fantastic time.
Yet, there is NO reason these qualities can’t transcend into my everyday life. There is no reason we, as Americans, can’t “live like Italians”. It may seem odd to others, but Italians are happy, and I am happiest when I am acting like one.
Therefore, I compiled a list of 10 ways to live life like an Italian, because in some ways they have it all figured out.
- Enjoy everything in moderation.
- This one is major. You will never hear an Italian woman turn down pasta because of the carbohydrate count. You will never hear a man giving up gelato because he is afraid he will get a “dad bod”. IT JUST DOESN’T HAPPEN. Italians enjoy the little things, in moderation. They eat the gelato, but they also eat fresh watermelon, caprese salads and more asparagus than they can grow. So, I say enjoy the sweet things in life, just don’t forget your vegetables too.
- Love passionately.
- The couples in Italy are passionate beyond recognition. I have never seen a group of people love so intensely in my entire life. They fondle in parks, they fight in bars and they gaze adoringly into each other’s eyes over a café. They aren’t afraid to put their heart on the line for love, something we all could use a little more of. Americans, especially my generation, are so terrified to find love that it hinders a lot of what we do, say and believe. We fear it will end in divorce; we fear we will miss out on life; we fear we will turn out like our parents; we fear what others will think or say about us. If you’re me, you fear all four. But Italians don’t fear those things. They just let love radiate out of them in a way that leaves us awestruck and envious.
- Take time for friends and family.
- I am a “five minutes early is on time” kind of person, a concept that Italians refuse to comprehend. Why? Because they spend extensive amounts of time talking to their friends, their families, their family’s friends and their friends’ families. They let the hours go by without a though about their promptness, because they value their relationships, not their obligations. As a person who is always “too busy” to hang out with someone or “in a rush” to get to work or a workout, value in relationships is seriously lacking in my life. Even when I am with a friend, I am thinking about what I could be doing that is “more productive”. When, in all honestly, nothing is more productive than investing in your relationships.
- Take a nap.
- Or, as they call it in Italy, a siesta. Siestas are important! Seriously, I never knew the value of a nap until I took on in Italy. Before Italy, I REFUSED to nap. I thought naps were for lazy people or people who were up too late doing things they shouldn’t have been doing. I thought naps were counterproductive. I WAS WRONG. Nothing is more refreshing than an hour-long nap in the middle of the day. It rejuvenates your brain and prepares you to finish the workday strong. It also makes you a nicer person, which is always a good thing.
- Walk more
- Want to lose 10 lbs.? MOVE TO ITALY. Seriously. They don’t really have a transportation system in a lot of the cities, and the roads are too narrow for a lot of cars, so they walk. They walk to the market; they walk to work; they walk to the club; they walk to the café; and, they walk to visit family on the other side of town. They don’t mind it, they don’t complain, and they definitely don’t get fat. Also, they don’t have to go to the gym and workout, because their life is a workout. They get physical exercise on a daily basis.
- Stress less
- Ah, stress, the mother of all (or most of) my problems. Italians don’t get stressed out. They don’t sweat the little things, because they know the little things don’t matter. So, you dropped a bottle of wine in the middle of Santo Spirito at 5:00 in the afternoon and everyone stared at you? Cool, don’t be embarrassed; another tourist will do it again tomorrow. So you lost your purse in a bathroom stall while you’re helping a stranger recover from tragic blood loss? Great, no worries, it will most likely be there in the morning. (Side note: this happened to an American, and she was very Italian-esque about it). Italians ENJOY life. They don’t stress about what will or won’t happen, and they DEFINITELY don’t stress about things that already happened, because you can’t change those things. You can only live and have faith that God is looking over you.
- Drink more wine, but don’t get wasted.
- Italians drink more wine than I have ever seen consumed. They drink it for lunch, dinner and everything in between. Can you stand taller than the bar? Good, then you can be served alcohol. Really. No joke, I saw a toddler drinking wine out of a sippy cup at dinner once. But, they are never wasted. They are never stumbling on the cobblestone streets puking up the remnants of their Gusta Pizza. No, they are social drinkers. They drink to enhance the moment, not to forget it. They like alcohol, but alcohol does not define their personality. They might get louder and friendlier, but they never get belligerent, hurtful or tearful, something I always envied and admired.
- Appreciate your history.
- Italians appreciate their history. They preserve art; they preserve buildings; they even preserve roads that are older than the United States. They take pride in where they come from, and they work hard to showcase it all, the good and the bad. They don’t sweep over the mafia corruption, leading to landfills and toxic waste that now resides on part of their shoreline. They learn from it, and they tell YOU about it so YOU can learn from it too. They embrace their faults, their mistakes and their triumphs. It’s part of who they are, and they don’t try to change it.
- Wear dresses.
- Dresses make us feel pretty, they make us feel free, they make us feel successful, and they make us feel like women. Now, if you think I am sexist or weird, then YOU wear pants all day in the hot sun, and tell me how YOU feel. Pants are annoying. Everyone is happier when the end of the day rolls around, and they get to strip down into an oversized, cotton T-shirt and nothing else. If you disagree, then you are either lying to yourself or have never tried it. A dress is the next best thing, especially if it is made of cotton. It’s a sophisticated oversized T-shirt you’re ALLOWED to wear in public! Winner. Winner. Being a girl rocks sometimes.
- Success isn’t everything.
- Originally I was going to write “money isn’t everything” but then I figured we work for money because that is how we evaluate our success. In New York, we all wake up at the butt crack of dawn, we get on a subway filled with millions of other people, we go to jobs that are decently all right, and we suffer through the day waiting until the weekend. WHAT IS THE POINT OF THAT?! Please, someone tell me, how does that make you successful? Answer: it doesn’t. Yes, we have to work. It’s part of life, but we don’t have to do something we hate. In Italy, people follow their passions. They bake; they farm; they leave their home in pursuit of love and open up the best wine shop on “the other side of the Arno”. If you have a passion, then chase it. Don’t let your idea of “success” hold you back. To me, Italians are the most successful people around, and they don’t even create their own energy; they have to import it. They don’t worry about staying late to impress their boss, blowing off their personal lives in the process. And, they definitely do NOT value work over any other aspect of their life. Work and success come last, under God, family, soccer, friends and country.
You may think that some of these lifestyle choices are “unrealistic” or, in the case of my annoying, pessimistic, alter ego, “selfish”. But, to those, including that annoying, pessimistic, alter ego, I say, that’s what’s wrong with our society. We think that being selfish is a bad thing. We think that putting our personal lives above our work lives is unrealistic. We spend so much time worrying about our 401k and the opinions of others that we forget to LIVE.
We can’t all live in Italy, and they probably prefer it if we don’t. But, we CAN take lessons from their culture and traditions. So, take one.. or two.. or 10; make some changes; follow your passions; spend an extra hour with your family; fall passionately in love; stop worrying; and, eat some pizza.