There is, undoubtedly, something about the Italian lifestyle that appeals to many of us. Whether it is the weather, the food, the passion for everything from opera to football, the world-class fashion sense or the historic architecture, many of us want a piece of Italy’s dolce vita.
BRING IT HOME The good news is that you can bring many elements of Italian style into your own life, with relative ease. The Italian lifestyle is fundamentally about valuing quality over quantity; this applies to clothes, food and décor in particular. Italians like to find what works well and stick with it, which is why so much of the nation’s architecture and traditions have lasted for centuries.
For example, the next time you are in Italy, have a look around you at the Italians in the street. You will notice that many are impeccably dressed, but not in garish, up-to-the minute styles. Italian fashion is admired worldwide for its timeless, understated chic and quality fabric and manufacture, and you can see this in the outfits worn by many Italians on a day-to-day basis. Most Italians have relatively few clothes, but what they have is of fine quality, cut and style – quality matters more than materialism.
The same applies to architecture, including domestic architecture. You will notice, on any visit to Italy, that certain elements are repeated from home to home. The use of traditional shutters on windows is a good example – these look great, last for years and do the job well, so why change?
SIMPLICITY Simplicity is another key Italian value. Italian food is fundamentally about good quality ingredients, used well. Most Italian dishes are not complex, but they are cooked from scratch in kitchens up and down the country, using the best ingredients available, just as they have been for years. Italians are not impressed by pre-packaged or convenience foods, and they eat all the better for it.
Similarly, another great Italian passion, coffee. The huge range of fancy coffees that can be purchased in coffee houses across the world nowadays may have been inspired by Italy, but this is primarily an American invention. Italians simply drink good, well-made coffee, which they usually take strong and with just a splash of, if any, milk (cappuccino is considered a breakfast drink, and eyebrows are raised if you order it after 11am). As a result, the quality of the beans and the roasting really shine through in truly Italian coffee.
COMMUNITY VALUES Finally, Italians have a great ability to look outside themselves and recognise that they are part of a wider community. This is expressed in a variety of ways, including communal meals involving family and friends, and a general sociability and preference for company over solitude. There is clearly much to admire in the Italians’ way of life, but there is no reason why you should not also benefit from it.
With a few simple touches – inviting several friends for a home-cooked meal, valuing quality over materialism, looking to tradition for inspiration – we can all move a little closer to the Mediterranean, wherever we happen to live. Why don’t you give it a try, today?
This post was written by David Charles for Take on the Road.