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La Dolce Far Niente 

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What is la dolce far niente? It’s simply the sweetness of doing nothing.

It’s one of the absolutely best parts of Italian culture. It explains the Italian lifestyle. Italians derive pleasure from the enjoyment of doing nothing. It’s a mindful way of living, an appreciation of quality of life that is missing in American culture.

To me, experiencing la dolce far niente is the highlight of experiencing Italy.

It is all the best parts of Italy–sitting around enjoying a gelato, sipping a morning coffee with no rush, enjoying time with the ones you love. 

Spritzes on the patio at Palazzo Indelli
Drinks on the patio at Palazzo Indelli

The intention and mindfulness about doing nothing is special about the Mediterranean–and specifically Italian–culture. While Americans know they should work on mindfulness, the Italians are raised to just do it regularly. Italians are very hard-working, but they don’t think, oh I must earn this break! They don’t have to schedule it or make it a corporate job perk. They take small breaks whenever they see fit. Italians know that the purpose of life is to live and enjoy it, they don’t get wrapped up in work or stress that undermines their taking pleasure in life.

The expression la dolce far niente was made famous in the movie Eat, Pray, Love.

There is a scene when the Italians lecture the main character, saying “Americans! You work too hard. You get burned out. Then you come home and spend the whole weekend in your pajamas in front of the TV. But you don’t know pleasure. You have to be told you earn it. But an Italian doesn’t need to be told. He walks by a sign that says ‘You deserve a break today’ and he says yes….” Watch the clip here.

Sweet idleness is commonly seen in Italian culture. It’s part of la dolce vita, the sweet life! The best times in life are often when we are sitting at a café, on a patio sipping an espresso or a cocktail with family and friends. It’s a time to relax, connect, and enjoy life. When people sit down to enjoy a drink together they get to connect, and human connection is one of the keys to happiness. It’s about the company and relishing in this simple joy. The Italians care about the company they keep and the food they savor. 

group of friends cheering with aperol spritz

At the heart of the Italian lifestyle is a custom called passeggiata, a leisurely evening stroll. La passeggiata is a casual social event when people dress up and promenade around to gather with people or meet at different places in the evening. Strolling can even end at the bar with an apertivo or a spritz. La passeggiata is just another example of la dolce far niente

La dolce far niente is about indulging in the pleasures of life. It’s about quality of life.

Fallow time is something you unapologetically make time for in Italy because leisure is a necessity of life, not an option.

Italians take this time to lounge and do nothing, which can also be seen in their everyday activities. People stroll before dinner, meeting their friends and sometimes having an apertivo or spritz. Meals tend to be long and relaxed. In August the entire country slows down and closes businesses to go to the beach. Italians spend a lot of time playing cards. It is these little things that make Italian culture so special. 

My favorite ways to embrace la dolce far niente is through sips, strolls, and stories.

I reference sips, strolls, and stories on the blog often as they make up the simple pleasures in life we sometimes take for granted. Focusing on these pleasures and this leisure time will help you bring the Italian lifestyle into your everyday life.

stairway with succulents in puglia, italy

La dolce far niente is a way of life. I hope that you find a way to make time for the sweetness of doing nothing in your everyday life. 

If you want to read more on la dolce far niente, I recommend The Sweetness of Doing Nothing: Live Life the Italian Way with Dolce Far Niente .

Loving the Italian lifestyle? Check out Why You Should Be Living La Dolce Vita Lifestyle.

And if you want to read more on things you need to know about Italy, read What to Know About Italy.

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  1. I lived in Italy from early June to the end of October and was very tempted to stay in 1974 for exactly the reasons you mention here!
    But I needed a career which I couldn’t have there so I chose to go back to England and finish qualifying as an engineer which I did !
    Then I was on the ladder of making enough money to buy a house and have four weeks holiday two of which we’re usually spent in Italy in the Cinque Terre where I made friends when I was working there !
    The Cinque Terre are five villages which except for the first Monterosso al mare are only accessible by railway boat or an amazing cliff path between them all ! You need to go back fly to Genova or Pisa and take the train . One of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been

    1. Love this, that is so wonderful! One of my big goals in life is to live at least part time in Italy! I have never been to the Cinque Terre, but it’s definitely on my list. 😊

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