“We must get beyond passions, like a great work of art. In such miraculous harmony. We should learn to love each other so much to live outside of time… detached.” ― Federico Fellini, La Dolce Vita: Federico Fellini’s Masterpiece
The end of the year is fast approaching, and I sense some anxiety as people start to tie loose ends together and get outstanding tasks and commitments done before many businesses close down for the holidays. In a casual conversation with friends, I asked the following question:
’How did 2017 treat you?”
Different experiences and perspectives on the year gave different answers. Some answered: “Blessed”, others: “Hectic to say the least!”
Most answers were focussed on achievements, failures, lessons learned and mostly not having enough time to get everything done.
During a recent trip to Italy’s Amalfi coast with my family, the Italian way of living, often called, “la dolce vita” (the sweet life), warmed my heart and soul. Based on a culture that revolves around food, beauty, love and a passion for life’s simplest pleasures, the Italians truly know how to live life to its fullest.
The Italian lifestyle of la dolce vita is about slowing down and focussing on the present momen
t. I thought to myself: Should we not perhaps make an effort to bring more “la dolce vita” into our lives, especially during this last part of the year? Why not allow ourselves to be seduced by the indulgence of slow living? For the next three months of summer, let us take time out of our hectic schedules and busy lives to pursue things that make us feel alive.
Here are a few ways to invite a taste of ‘La dolce vita’ into your life:
1. Unschedule your time
We all need time to unwind from the daily grind to refresh our minds and bodies. In Italy, long breaks after lunch are the norm, but that may not work in the typical South African work day. The best way I’ve found to take a break is to have at least one day a week that’s unscheduled. See what comes up, and be okay with doing nothing. On a recent unscheduled weekend, I got to spend five leisurely hours lunching with friends whom I haven’t seen in months. I also took time out to lie on the couch reading whatever I felt like – something I never have time to do. When the weekend was over, I felt relaxed and ready for work on Monday.
2. Slow down!
We live in such a fast paced world and rarely afford ourselves the time to actually savour our actions – so focus on slowing down. Focus on the present and be aware of your every activity in the now.
3. Walk, don’t run
There’s a lovely Italian phrase called, “Fare una passeggiata”. It means “To take a walk”, and after having a meal in Italy, it’s common to do so. Not a speed walk; not a walk to go anywhere in particular. Just a slow stroll that helps you digest, converse with people and enjoy the scenery. In the Amalfi region of Italy, walking is part of everyday life since narrow, winding streets and ancient stone stairs are your only way to get around. Walking is one of the best exercises you can do.During our time in Italy, we ate pasta and gelato every day, yet didn’t gain a kilogram. I attribute that to all the walking we did.
4. Love your body
If you go to any Italian beach, you’ll see lots of people who seem to be quite comfortable with their bodies, no matter how tall or short, skinny or heavy, old or young. You’ll see elderly women wearing bikinis and big bellied men in Speedos. Eat the food. Walk on the beach. Swim in the ocean. Enjoy yourself wherever you are and stop comparing your body to an airbrushed model in an ad. If you fully own and love your body, you’ll be able to strut confidently on any beach.
5. Eat slow
In Italy, a waiter will never bring you the check unless you ask for it. Why? Because it’s considered rude to rush someone through a meal. It’s not uncommon to sit for two hours over a multi-course lunch starting with an antipasto dish and ending with a chilled Limoncello, a liqueur made from lemon rinds. A longer meal time allows for conversation, people watching and the ultimate savouring and appreciation of each and every ingredient you eat. For the next three months of summer make family meals a time for eating and conversing, not texting or watching TV.
6. Treat people like family
In Italy people are extremely family orientated. They treat neighbours and strangers who enter their space like family. We rented a villa in the small town of Praiano, and our host Lucca tre
ated us like family. His aunt, who lived in a smaller house on the same property, offered us fresh tomatoes and basil out of her garden for our lunch on the terrace of our villa. Lucca indulged us with mozzarella and wine while taking time to inform us of the best beaches for swimming. They might have had something more important to do at the time, but we’ll never know because they were totally focused on the present – truly engaging with five complete strangers from South Africa.
7. Seek out beauty
Italians surround themselves with beauty. The art of Michelangelo and Raphael, opera of Verdi and soft sounds of Vivaldi is part of the Italian lifestyle. Surround yourself by pretty and inspiring things this summer. Declutter your living space. Find the most beautiful table cloth for your table,and utilise the crystal glasses to drink the best wine you can find. Fill your garden with flowers.
Every now and then dress extra nice, indulge in your favourite things, do things mindfully, purposefully, with presence. Live in the moment and indulge in your own style and unique beauty.
8. Live with passion
Whether eating, talking, loving, fighting or creating, Italians do it with “passione”. Even everyday conversation is filled with passion by exuberant speech and hand gestures. This open expression of emotions is a healthy way to live and relieve stress. Have fun! Remember to include things in your regular daily life that are just for fun, because you can.
It is summer in our beautiful country and I think we could all benefit from
adopting a little of ‘la Dolce Vita’ for the next few months – an attitude of making life as sweet and enjoyable as possible, rather than passable.