Fresh off a family trip to Tuscany, I can’t help but think that we’re doing it all wrong. Everywhere you look – on the internet, in news stories, popular literature, and social media – we tout the need to slow down and appreciate the good things in life. As hard as we try, our culture can make our attempts feel like swimming upstream.
While it’s arguable that Italians have certain improvements they could make, they do seem to have a few things figured out. As the world changes pace, their small boot-shaped country is preserving a lifestyle that feeds to basic human desires and encourages a life of love, beauty, and happiness. For some, it may seem archaic, but there a few lessons we could all take from the Tuscan way of life.
Every Italian has a little garden. It may just be a terrace or it may be a whole plot, but they open their lives up to nature, and in doing so, feed their connection to the earth. They mix gardening for sheer beauty with gardening for sustenance; beautiful blooms rest amongst basil and rosemary. When dinner time rolls around, leaves are picked, chopped, and sprinkled into a delicious meal. Some houses serve olive oil grown and pressed on the premises. The practice surrounds them with so much freshness and ties them to the earth in beautiful ways.
Cooking is an art that connects us. When we take the time to source ingredients at a small outdoor market, we become connected with the origin of our meal and the people who make it happen. When we take the food home to chop and cook, we connect to our creativity and develop a sense of self-sufficiency. When the meal is ready and we share it with family and friends, we’re connected with the ones we love over conversation and a shared experience. It is the ultimate tie from earth, to soul, to culture, to relationships. Not to mention, a life in which we come together over food is healthier. When we cook for ourselves we avoid the sugars, chemicals, and over-processed goods that fill shelves everywhere.
Most Americans are appalled to find out that Italians take the entire month of August off. Cities shut down, production stops, and people flock to the mountains and beaches for a month of rest. This cultural acceptance of the need to slow down is something Americans can learn from. Here, we feel guilty for resting and recharging, but really, it is elemental to our success as human beings. While our society may never change its view, that doesn’t mean you can’t. If anyone or anything makes you feel bad for slowing down once in a while, shut it out of your mind and let yourself be. You know you’re doing what’s right.
Connect to Beauty
For Italians, beauty is a basic need, not a a luxury. It is something they’ve always fought hard for, and have led the world in creating. They build beauty into everything they do because it’s a must. Having it in your life is a reason for being. It gives you cause to wake up in the morning, and to appreciate the things around you. While it may sound materialistic, it is more a mechanism for staying inspired. We all need a little beauty to fuel us. The access to it is a search we should never give up on.
The concept of an Italian family is not a myth. Second cousins twice removed are as much your kin as anyone. The amount of time, energy, and love that they put into family is awe-inspiring. Families support each other in a community-like sense that we don’t see much of in other parts of the world. At the end of our lives, when we’re done with the job, when that goal is accomplished, who is going to be there for us? Don’t forget to put as much time and love into family, or the people that matter to you, as you do the other areas of your life.
You’ve heard what I can learn from a life in Tuscany. I’d love to know, what life lessons have you taken from other parts of the world?
Be sure to check out Naomi’s blog Numie Abbot.