September 13, 2017


Firenze, 2016
My Italian heritage has always been a present, if rather unspoken, part of my life. My dad (and his dad and his dad ad infinitum) are the original Italians of our family, though today very much an Italian-American hyphenate. After every heated family argument my grandfather throws his hands up and exclaims, "it is because we are Italian!"

Indeed, Ancestry DNA maps traced our family back to Florence, where Italians with our last name still live today. My excitement to finally take an Italian language and culture class in university reached its peak last summer when I took a trip through Italy with my best friend Amrita (read all about it).

One of my biggest takeaways from our Italy trip, besides 10 extra pounds and an enormous yearn to return, was the ease with which Italians seemed to move throughout their days. Sure, there was some metro crowding at peak hours but nothing even close to the NYC subway....well, ever! My Italian professor here at school finally explained it to me. There are 3 key phrases Italians live by: la dolce vita, dolce far niente, and fare bella figura

The owner of a gelato shop in Firenze with Amrita and me
La Dolce Vita
Literally 'the sweet life'. Italians try to live in a more carefree manner than most Americans do in day to day life. Less pre-occupied and more focused on enjoying their lives rather than just getting through them. While I can't claim that Italians aren't just as addicted to their phones as Americans, I certainly saw much more face-to-face human interaction than I do on a daily basis in America. Italians take their morning cappuccino with a newspaper and a friendly chat with the local owner of the bar instead of rushing through, staring at their phones. A pervasive friendliness surrounds you in Italy, even as a foreigner (although it definitely helps when you can speak the language!)

A and her first cup of gelato in Venezia
Dolce Far Niente
Perhaps best explained in this famous clip from Eat Pray Love, dolce far niente explains "the art of doing nothing". I know, at least personally, when I'm not doing something productive I feel like I should be. I'm not sure if that's an American thing or a specific-to-me thing but even when I'm not at work or in class, I feel restless if I'm not doing something productive or that will help me in the long run. According to my professor (and Luca Spaghetti) Italians know they deserve breaks and time to recharge -- and they don't feel guilty about it! It explains why Italian meals can take hours and why many shops close in the middle of the day to give the proprietors a rest.

First proper Italian meal in Italy!
Fare Bella Figura
This last one I actually read about in a novel a few years back, though I just got around to understanding it lately. There's a reason Italians are typically thought of as very stylish and put-together -- loro devono fare bella figura! Roughly translated, the idea of fare bella figura is to make a good impression, to put in effort. "This is why you don't see Italians going to the grocery store in sweatpants so much. It's not a good look."--my Professoressa.

Putting It All Together
If you really want to live life like an Italian, put down your phone and appreciate the actual world around you! Try to put yourself first a little more, take breaks, enjoy dessert and a good book without feeling guilty! Make sure to take pride in your appearance and how the world perceives you. It's pretty proven that you are more productive, happy, and successful when you put your best foot forward and put effort in your outward appearance as well as your everyday treatment of others, so do yourself, and the world, the favor!

Vivere la dolce vita, godere dolce far niente, รจ fare bella figura farfalle!

A pizzeria in Firenze

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