Lessons from Italy

I was fortunate enough to take a real vacation. Robert and I just returned from a fabulous tour of Italy.

Miss Lisa and Mr. Lisa (Robert) before a "slow meal" in Tuscany.

Of course it was gorgeous and amazing and all that good stuff. But I’m always looking for learning objectives so here are the lessons from our travels:

1. Expanding horizons and changing perspectives.

It’s so cliché but it’s true. There’s something very freeing about traveling to another country. We leave behind the gadgets and harried daily routine and open our eyes to new smells, sights, sounds, and flavors.

2. Getting back to our roots.

I have the privilege of staying connected with my Italian cousins. Besides the fact that they are incredibly hospitable hosts, they provide a real link to my own history and family history. I was so blessed to again see the home where my Nonna was born and the church where my Nonno was baptized. I can go to their tiny village and see where it all began—where I began. My dad was born one month after my Grandmother’s arrival in California. (Conceived in Italy, born in the US!) It’s rare in our transitory culture to be able to connect without own roots. I was able to do this years ago, but now, I appreciate it so much more. Maybe because I’m older or maybe because we all live all around the world. Regardless, it’s transformative to return to one’s roots to see from where we come.

Miss Lisa in front of the church where her Nonno (grandfather) was baptized.

3. Slowing Down

The Italians are notorious for their relaxed pace and I’ve become a fan. I’m a slave to my very tight schedule and rarely give myself any time to breathe. The Italians love to take their time and savor slow meals, tiny cups of coffee (and cigarettes), and afternoon breaks.  We Americans tend to gulp down our Starbucks and eat on the run. It’s no way to live! We learned our lesson on this with my cousins after a few slow family dinners. They even invited us to nap beforehand because they knew it would go on for hours. We thought, “Nap?! We’re starving, let’s eat!”

Robert hadn’t experienced an Italian dinner and he quickly realized that eating everything in front of him was a bad idea. Even at their tiny kitchen table, the antipasti kept coming out, plate after plate of cheese, olives, meats…The first night, he never even made it to the pasta course! You’ve got to pace yourself if you want to enjoy the full 3-4 hour meal experience. Dinner is not a microwaved chore. It’s a family event to be savored and cherished and shared with loved ones. Our culture doesn’t allow us to slow down like this. So Robert and I are vow to slow down as much as we reasonably can in our home. It will be a challenge but we are going to try our best to live at an Italian pace, if nothing more than savoring our meals together.

So, as we begin summer, think about slowing down, getting together with special people, and visiting new places. It’s the simple, “together” things that we’ll always remember. Happy summer!

This post brought to you by Miss Lisa or shall we say Signorina Lisa!