A conversation between a local Italian man and an American woman:
“I’ve been in Rome for three weeks and all I’ve done is learn a few Italian words and eat.”
“You feel guilty because you are American, you don’t know how to enjoy yourself.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Americans, you work too hard. You get burnt out. Then you come home and spend the whole weekend in your pyjamas in front of the TV.”
“Hah, that’s not far off actually.”
“But you don’t know pleasure. You have to be told you’ve earned it. An Italian doesn’t need to be told. He walks by a sign that says ‘you deserve a break today’, and he says ‘yeah, I know’. We call it dolce far niente. It means the sweetness of doing nothing. We are masters of it.
I recently watched the movie Eat, Pray, Love for the millionth time. I love this movie even more every time I see it. This time around the scene in the barber shop where the Italian man explains what dolce far niente means really stuck out to me. What he says is true, the English language doesn’t have a word or phrase to capture such an activity. The sweetness of doing nothing. I love it. Makes me realize I need to spend more time in Italy. Or at least make more of an effort to be present and enjoy the times throughout my week when I’m not actively doing something. I often find myself trying to fill every minute of the day with something productive. I need to really cherish the sweetness of the little breaks in between all the production.
Another scene I love in this movie is when she lives in the apartment in Rome and cooks herself breakfast. She steams asparagus in the morning to have with her eggs. The simple elegance of these two beside each other on a plate makes my heart sing. She eats on the floor by herself and in this moment I understand the meaning of dolce far niente.
So today I woke up, turned on some Italian music, and steamed asparagus…
You may not find bliss in steaming asparagus, but whatever it is for you, try to find time in your week to enjoy this. Don’t feel bad or lazy for doing absolutely nothing else but this. The Italians wouldn’t, so why should we?