Heidi Isern

writer. thinker. whiskey drinker.

Italian Pleasure: Lessons from Rome and Florence

Italy is a place where people go to eat, to love, and to slow down.  Pleasure comes in a variety of forms and not taking the time to enjoy it is regarded upon not just as careless, but inhumane.  I was only in the country for two weeks but hope to bring back a few lessons to my San Francisco world of fast and cold.

Lessons from Italian Pleasure

  1. Be in the moment. In Italy people are in love with the moment. People fall in love over their first aperitif together without questioning longevity.  Nights are meant to linger and one is reprimanded for thinking of consequences in the morning. I was reprimanded on more than on occasion for my American tendency to behave myself.  ‘Worrying about tomorrow jeopardizes today,’ I was told.  Mistakes are a state of mind….nothing is a mistake if you don’t allow it to become one, it’s just an experience.
  2. Be simple.  Less is more.  At home sometimes we think we need to have multiple things and detail for something to be worthy.  Why would we order the plain pizza margherita when we can order one with meat lovers delight, 4 blend cheese, or veggie supreme? We forget than by adding on multiple ingredients we lose the flavor and integrity of the dish.  Perfect pizza rarely has more than two toppings.  Perfect hand made boots have no logo or fancy details. And a perfect afternoon consists of nothing more than hours at sunny street café.
  3. Be slow. Slow Food began in Italy with the founding of its forerunner organization, Arcigola, in the 80s to resist the opening of a McDonald’s near the Spanish Steps in Rome.  The movement has spread to the United States but few bother to pay attention and eat a fast food meal in the car as they rush to the next engagement.  The pleasure of eating comes from focus and delicious dedication to every morsel you put in your mouth.   If a dish takes days to produce and hours to make, then shouldn’t we honor it by taking the time to enjoy it?  Otherwise what is the point of eating?
  4. Be late. I’ve always struggled with tardiness.  Perhaps it is my German ancestry but I take delight in the punctual.  I realized that punctuality has allowed me to live my life in planned out increments, stacking meeting upon meeting, living in a state of permanent double booking. I always felt this made me more productive, when in reality it made me anxious-always worrying about where I needed to be next.  Once I started being late, I started reducing my commitments.  And with reduced commitments I was much more focused and present for the ones I kept.  Even if I didn’t get there quite on time, I knew I would stay for its duration.
  5. Be passionate. Many times the passionate are frowned upon.  I once turned down my mouth at my Italian ex-boyfriend’s emotional outbursts.  I saw it as a sign of weakness.  His proclamations were considered “too much.”  However, to proclaim how you feel and risk judgment (or rejection) takes enormous strength.  Too often we let our passions fester inside of us, fermenting in fear and ruining any chance of greatness.  If we risked letting them out, perhaps the world would unite to support them.  From love to entrepreneurial endeavors, passion is the core ingredient for success.

A man who has not been in Italy, is always conscious of an inferiority, from his not having seen what it is expected a man should see -Samuel Johnson

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