University of Wisconsin–Madison

This Is What Dreams Are Made Of

This past week, I came across this quote about Italy:

“What is the fatal charm of Italy? What do we find there that can be found nowhere else? I believe it is a certain permission to be human, which other places, other countries, lost long ago.”

–       Erica Jong

If I had not spent the past month living and breathing the Italian lifestyle I do not think I would have fully understood the meaning of this quote.

(view of Ponte Vecchio along the Arno River)

After a couple weeks of sleeping in until 9 every day, having pudding crescants for every breakfast, being encouraged to take my time and never being rushed, having picnics for lunch, walking miles each day, seeing parts of history around every corner, and eating to my heart’s content with four course dinners, I think I get it.

In Italy, there is a pleasantness about the environment.  Everyone is relaxed and although they work for a living, Italians find a way to enjoy the little things in life.

(view from the balcony of my apartment)

Food is one of the most important things in Italy.  Grocery shopping is never a “chore.”  The majority of the food in Italy is fresh and without preservatives, they go bad within a few days.  This makes grocery shopping a daily activity and almost a hobby for Italians.  I have found to enjoy this Italian tradition by visiting the many farmers’ markets scattered throughout Florence.  This is where I have been able to find fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as home-made noodles, and freshly baked bread.  Also, through my interactions with the sellers, I have been able to practice my Italian, which is an added bonus.  Although in the States, grocery shopping daily would be considered an inconvenience, I have found it to be a relaxing afternoon activity, which allows me to eat fresh food for every meal, every day of the week.

(fresh noodles we made in Food as Culture)

Staying close with family and friends is another important aspect of the Italian lifestyle.  Whether it means stopping on the street to say “hello” to a friend or co-worker or meeting up with a friend for lunch, Italians always manage to put their social life first.  Sometimes we start class late because the professor is enjoying a cigarette/coffee break with his friend and did not want to miss catching up.  Although at first this was a complete change from the hustle-bustle of the American lifestyle, I have come to embrace it.

Time is definitely NOT of the essence in Italy.  Italians are very laid-back and never want to be rushed.  When sitting down to dinner at a restaurant, one can expect to spend no less than two hours eating multiple courses, which are served slowly over the two-hour span of time.  If you ask for the check within the first hour, you are normally ignored because it is expected that you stay at the table and catch up with your friends for the whole time.  Eating out is a full social event, not simply a quick thing to complete before going on to do something else.

(view of Florence from the top of the Bell Tower)

The laid-back lifestyle I have been living here in Italy has not made me lazy, rather it has taught me to make the most of your time and enjoy the little things in life.  Rather than spending my free time watching a movie on Netflix or surfing the web, I have come to enjoy walking around Florence, touring museums, and shopping at the many markets around the city.  Also, I have taken advantage of the relaxed schedule by using the three-day weekends that we have at my university to travel around Tuscany.  I have already had the chance to see Lucca, Siena, Bologna, Pisa, and Rome.

(panoramic view of Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo)

I feel as if I have been able to have the true human experience since moving to Florence because I have discovered the joy of the little things in life.  It will be hard returning to America and its fast-paced lifestyle in May, but I hope I can remain my relaxed Italian self even when back in the States.  I will simply have to remember that I do not have to do everything to enjoy my life, but I should simply enjoy every little aspect of my life and take each day as it comes.