If you've spent time in Italy you know that life in Italy and life in America are very different. While both cultures have their pros and cons, we think Americans can learn a lot from the way Italians live.
Traditionally, Italians have an easy-going and positive outlook on how to go about daily life. Italians live "la vita bella" (the beautiful life). But the beautiful life doesn't mean the luxurious life -- it means a relaxed, family-centric lifestyle.
Check out seven lessons Americans can learn from Italians below.
1. Eat slowly, locally and with others.
There's really no such thing as Italian fast food. Sure, you'll find a McDonald's here and there, but in Italy the concept of eating transcends "fast and cheap." Italy is all about "slow food." Dinners are unhurried and eaten around a table (not a TV or computer screen) with one's family. In Italy, food is natural, authentic and sourced locally.
2. Drink a little bit, but not too much.
Italians love their vino. But they don't overdo it. Here in America, there's a culture of binge-drinking. In Italy, a bottle of wine is shared among friends or around the dinner table. Stumbling around drunk in Italy is not viewed favorably. Italians like to drink, but they know how to keep it classy.
3. You should indulge a little every now and then... perché no??
There are so many delicious treats in Italy -- rich gelato, mouth-watering pastries, decadent chocolates. Much like the philosophy on drinking, Italian culture has a "perché no?" take on treats. "Perché no?" translates to "why not?" The idea is to treat yourself by having a little bit of something tasty (because, why not?) but not having so much that you're gorging yourself. Take Italian gelato shops for example... the normal size of a "coppa" (cup) would look tiny compared to the average size of a cup of ice cream in America.
4. Stop hurrying, start relaxing.
Life is less hurried in Italy. People don't rush around with to-go cups of coffee, but rather sip their espresso at the "bar" (aka coffee shop). Meals tend to linger, whether they be at restaurants or at home. Pedestrians tend to meander. There's significantly less emphasis put on being on time -- rather, the emphasis falls on how that time is spent. Many Italians take a siesta of sorts -- a break during the day, from 1 p.m. - 3 p.m., to eat lunch and relax.
5. Having family nearby is the best thing ever.
Families in Italy tend to stay in the same area, rather than moving around. Grandparents often care for grandchildren, siblings remain close and extended families are huge and welcoming. While it's more common in the U.S. to go away for college and settle down somewhere other than where you grew up, it tends to be the opposite in Italy. Having family nearby is deeply valued in Italy. Having nonna (grandma), aunts, uncles and cousins drop by for dinner during the week or having a weekly extended family meal every Sunday is common and brings everyone together.
6. Gather and spend time outdoors.
Part of the great communal feel of Italy comes from the fact that people tend to congregate outdoors. Friends will meet up at a piazza and hang out there, rather than in a home. Piazzas are vibrant, outdoor hubs where tons of people gather, children play and tourists roam, creating a lively atmosphere. Similarly, many Italians do most of their shopping at a mercato, outdoor markets where vendors sell everything from food and wine to clothing and leather goods. In America, we have malls -- which are great. But there's nothing like wandering a mercato, sampling the fare and interacting with other locals.
7. Maintain a "bella figura."
Bella figura literally translates to "beautiful figure" -- but it's more idiomatic than that. The idea of maintaining a bella figura is more like the idea of maintaining a good public image. Italians don't get drunk in public, eat while they walk or wear pajamas to the dinner table because it would have a negative impact on their image. Bella figura is more than just looking good, it's a way of life that emphasizes aesthetics and good behavior.