The famous ‘Dolce Vita’, which literally translates as the ‘sweet life’, is not just a cultural artifact but it’s the fundamental characteristic of the Italian way of life. When you head out into the town during the evenings, after the day of work is done, the main streets are transformed into a giant living room! The wonderful people meet and share stories about their day, relaxing at a slow pace with no rush, worries or stress on their minds.
The Dolce Vita is the same as living life to its fullest and not letting anything pass you by. It’s a similar concept to the English saying of ‘you might as well smell the roses’. This means that instead of focusing on the rose’s thorns you should enjoy their fine scent and beauty because you’ll have a much happier life that way!
Dolce vita means something a little different to everyone but in general it refers to enjoying the finer things in life. Taking the time to savor a great meal, to put your family first, to appreciate the stunning views that make up Italy’s scenery and create a fantastic work life balance all make up the Dolce Vita.
There’s a lot of ways that Italians live the Dolce Vita – many of which you can start to apply in your daily life today! When you visit Italy, as a tourist or an Expat, you’ll be inundated with the Dolce Vita and if you are willing to embrace it then it will improve the quality of your experience. The following are the ways in which Italians live the Dolce Vita.
Start the Day Right!
Italians know how to eat well and if you take a leaf from their book you’ll be surprised how happy it will make you. So why not start with breakfast? Italians don’t eat bacon and eggs or other heavy foods for breakfast and instead they chose to eat cakes or croissants; possibly with a piece of fruit as well.
This might sound like a strange way to start the day but Italians usually have a coffee with a pastry for breakfast. Italian cakes are not as sweet and sugary as the ones we eat in America and so they are more savory. Having a light breakfast is customary in Italy but they certainly make up for it with their huge evening meals – which in themselves are a vital part of the Dolce Vita.
One of the tastiest cakes that you can eat for breakfast is the classic Italian cheesecake – which is traditionally made from ricotta cheese, citrus fruits and eggs, with a little sugar too. These are absolutely divine and are the perfect way to get your day off to a fantastic start!
Free Time Without a Planned Activity.
Many of us in the West are guilty of over planning our entire lives – right down to our precious moments of free time. When you live a busy life it’s tempting to feel that you need to make the very most of every second of spare time that you get. This can actually end up being stressful and tiring, the last thing you need.
Italians however, do not have this problem. They allow themselves plenty of time without any fixed plans, simply letting what will be, be! Why not give this a try yourself? Give yourself a full two days of unscheduled relaxation over the weekend. Don’t make any plans and just do whatever you feel like – whether that’s calling an old friend on the phone, binge watching a Netflix series of going for a walk in the local woods.
Letting yourself enjoy unscheduled free time will help you to find the beauty in life and leave you feeling fresh and relaxed when it’s time to get back to work.
Fare una Passeggiata.
‘Fare una passeggiata’ translates to ‘take a little walk’ and it’s an important part of living the Dolce Vita. So next time you’ve had a lovely dinner with your friends or family why not take a slow walk together afterwards. Not only is it the perfect way to relax but it has also been shown to improve your digestion and help you sleep better that night.
Italians do not like to rush and the phrase ‘fare una passeggiata’ perfectly sums up their attitude to their free time. After a nice long dinner, Italians like to take a slow stroll to help with their digestion without any special destination in mind. Friends and family will walk slowly around the town square after dinner, stopping to talk to people they bump into on a way!
Take Your Time While Eating.
One thing you’ll notice when you move to Italy is that unless you actually ask the waiter for the check they won’t bring it to you! Rushing is not part of the Dolce Vita and it’s considered rude to rush customers out of the restaurant, even if they’ve been there for hours.
Taking your time when you’re eating gives you space for those long meandering conversations that you’ll always remember. Giving yourself the time and space to allow things to unfold will let you take part in the Dolce Vita no matter where you are! You might not be able to fit in a leisurely lunch however you can always create the time over the weekend to spend a few relaxing hours eating together with your family and friends.
In most of the world the general consensus is that a bigger house, a bigger car and a bigger lifestyle is the route to happiness but in Italy most people disagree! Small cars, in fact tiny, are a common sight and the same goes for apartments and houses – they’re very small compared to what we’re used to in the West!
Italians have figured out that a small house is just fine and even better since it means less cleaning and maintenance hassles. It may take you a while to get used to this concept but it really seems to work for the Italians and is one of the surprising hallmarks of the real Dolce Vita.
Don’t forget though, that Italian society is far more social and people spend less time at home on their own. When you think of the town square and main street as an extension of your own living room you can easily understand why Italians don’t mind living in a small home.
Of course, there are other practical reasons for downsizing in Italy. Many of the streets are narrow and windy, and the old houses date back centuries when smaller homes were the norm. Instead of tearing down the old houses and roads and rebuilding new larger ones Italians have embraced their past and made a virtue of what you might see as a problem. Welcome to the Dolce Vita!
Take a Long Vacation.
When it comes to relaxation and recreation the Italians do not do things by half – and that includes their vacations. Holidays of several weeks or even a month are very common in Italy and although most people vacation within their own country, often at the coast, they allow themselves plenty of time to enjoy themselves.
This is quite a different way of doing things to most other Europeans and many other Westerners who prefer to travel to foreign countries on holiday. Part of the reason Italians take long vacations within their own country’s borders is to save money but it’s also because they like to visit relatives and prefer to spend time with their families instead of venturing overseas.
Italians Work Unusual Hours.
Although there have been some moves towards more flexible working hours, most Americans and other people around the world still tend to work the standard 9 to 5 with very little room for variation. However, in Italy, where the Dolce Vita is the order of the day, shops and other businesses work to a timetable that is nowhere near as strict!
For instance, many businesses don’t open until later in the morning and then it’s very common to take a long lunch hour, lasting several hours, before returning to finish up at work! This is a tradition in Italy and other parts of the Mediterranean and is known as a ‘siesta’.
Taking a long lunch break is more pronounced in the Southern parts of the country where summer time temperatures can become oppressive during the heat of the day; and so the custom is to shut up shop and take a few hours to cool down and have a nap!
In many parts of the West this would be seen as an outrageous business practice and might even see customers boycott the store and shop with a competitor; but in Italy, this is seen as perfectly normal! The Dolce Vita revels in the slower pace of life and these kinds of business practices are a perfect example of it in action.
The Dolce Vita – Find Your Passion in Life.
Italians are well known for their passion, or ‘passione’ in Italian, and this shows in every part of their lives. So, if you want to live the Dolce Vita, whether you’re in Italy or not, then finding your own passion in life is a crucial part of the process.
Whether you like to eat, play music, create art, write, play sport or just express yourself through any activity; then try to put your heart and soul into it and really let your passion shine through!
We can all learn from one another and when it comes to enjoying the finest things in life the Italians seem to have got it down to a fine art. It’s a wonderful trait in life to be able to enjoy everything to the full; from sharing a meal with friends to taking a leisurely stroll through the town.
Each one of us, no matter where we are living, can start to incorporate some of the elements of the Dolce Vita into our daily routines – starting today! The Dolce Vita is what makes Italy such a wonderful country to live in and so we can all benefit from making it a part of our lives too!