The Principles of The Italian Lifestyle

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coffee on table and Venice in sunset time, Italy


By Maria Pasquale

The Italian lifestyle as an ideal conjures many images: family and friends, the aperitivo and the passeggiata, style and elegance, food and wine. Distilled, it revolves around a few concepts and a whole lot of unwritten rules.

There’s the dolce far niente, more prevalent through the centre to the south, which can only be described as the art of being idle. It’s when you sit down to a plate of pasta and a glass of good wine, watching the world go by – the guiltless moments far away from everyday stress and pressure.

There’s la bella figura, all about comportment and making a good impression. Then there’s sprezzatura, a term coined in the 1500s. In its simplest form, it is the effortless way in which Italians carry themselves with spontaneous, seemingly unplanned beauty and elegance.

And it’s hard not to mention the term made famous all over the world, la dolce vita – the sweet life.

The Italian lifestyle encapsulates all of these philosophies and so much more.

They form the basis of what’s important to Italians, lying at the very core of who Italians are. The people here are passionate about everything and proud of their origins. But surprisingly, while those origins include some of the world’s greatest artists, composers, thinkers and some awe-inspiring monuments, it doesn’t make the Italians arrogant.

Instead, it gives them a quiet confidence – as though they know that excellence is in their blood – while authenticity, generosity and resilience guide their character.

Fundamentally, to be Italian is to be lively and affectionate. It’s to kiss and embrace and hold hands, while old men and women walk arm in arm with others. It’s to be direct and expressive with your emotions, loud with your words and to wave your hands with gestures. From the outside looking in, it can sometimes seem like a lot of action and drama. But really, it’s about the
Italian spirit – the unique way in which they connect and relate to one another.

That is how the Italians live.

This was an excerpt (reprinted with permission) from the wonderful book, How to Be Italian: Eat, Drink, Dress, Travel, and Love La Dolce Vita by Maria Pasquale