Anthony and I have been in Italy for two weeks now and we have experienced so much culture, family and love it’s beyond sad we need to leave this beautiful country and the even more beautiful people tomorrow.
We started our Italian adventure in Florence, then made our way to Siena and the Tuscan country for the Palio and a lot of exploring with our dear friend and wedding photographer, Susanna. Then we traveled south, to Fondi, to see my wonderful family. Fondi is a tiny town between Rome and Naples and I learned it is even older than Rome…and Rome as we know is molto vecchio! This trip was different than past trips we have taken to Italy and elsewhere because we spent most of our time with two different families, mine and Susanna’s. It was one of the best experiences we have ever had and we will be leaving Italy with beautiful memories and lifestyle lessons we learned along the way.
Here is a peek at what two weeks with two families will teach you.
Grappa gives you wings. Susanna’s dad shared some homemade grappa with The Mister Project and although there was a big language barrier, when Babbo (Tuscan word for Papa) put his hands out and made little fluttering wings we knew exactly what he was getting at. Grappa can and will make you tipsy and have you feeling as if you can just fly away. But as our Uncle Frank back home warned us – two small glasses of grappa after dinner….no more!
Che ganzo! I love learning new expressions. If you find yourself in the Tuscan region and you want to say “how cool!” now you know how to! CHE GANZO!
Share a meal and eat as a family when you can. Life is short and you only live once, take time to share a meal with your family to share your day and some stories.
Always try to find the positive and adapt to the situation. This is one of my favorite things about the people of Italy. They have a particular way of not getting overly stressed or anxious when something doesn’t go their way. They adapt, go with the flow and move on, with a smile may I add.
Slow down and have patience. This one was important to me. Personally, I feel like we are always in a rush and need things done immediately. It was refreshing to not rush and to enjoy the speed of life in Italy. And if something takes a long time, like waiting for wifi, for example, it’s no big deal, it’ll kick in eventually.
Don’t plan too much. Learn to be flexible and not tied down to a very specific agenda.
Say no to the selfie stick. There is a massive selfie stick epidemic happening in Italy. It’s a problem and actually if I hear one more person say, “selfie stick???” I might take the stick and hit them over the head with it.
Pinch, pinch. Ah! The best trick when it comes to taking a photo with a friend who may not be hamming it up enough. Give them a good, playful pinch on their side and they are sure to give you that smile you are looking for. Brilliant! Thanks, Susanna for the tip! I think she just may be giving me the ole’ pinch here while waiting for the Palio to begin in Siena.
A spritz should be ORANGE. If you have not yet had a spritz, you are missing out and should run to Binny’s immediately. A spritz is Aperol, prosecco and soda water garnished with an orange. In the states, they often jip you a bit in the Aperol department and that should not be the case at all! This drink is meant to be orange in color and it is frigging delicious and oh so refreshing!
Do the beach the Italian way! The beach culture in Italy is extraordinary. There are both private and public beaches. If you can, pay the four or five euro per person and grab chair and umbrella for the day. And unlike our culture, they don’t pack a cooler full of beer. They chill, visit, laugh, play cards and bring water and paninis for the day. And they play many active sports like beach tennis and play them really well. This here is one of my favorite beaches, Sperlonga. I wish I could go back to this very moment.
Women love the skin they’re in. I intend to share my thoughts on this in an entire post next week, but let me just say, I spent a week at the beach and skinny, tall, fat, short, cellulite, teeny tiny, bellies, no bellies, anything goes and it is the most refreshing, beautiful thing I have ever seen. This is how every beach and city should be. I left Italy with more love for the female body, as well as my own. More to come on this soon.
You can get an espresso almost anywhere and that is how it should be. If I had it my way, there would be a cafe on every street corner in Chicago, just like in Italy. And I am not talking about a Starbucks where you buy huge coffees that you have to hang onto as you rush through your day…no way, Jose. I’m talking about the type of place where you stand at the counter and throw back a single espresso from a teeny, little mug and it costs one dollar.
The older people are active. I was speaking about this with an Italian woman the other day. There is an 85-year-old lady in her building and every day she walks up three flights of stairs and has been doing so for many, many years. She credits this to her long life. I mean, check out this dude on the bike. He is all about it and looking good! The lesson here: move that body of yours!
Life is more simple. That’s just how it seems to be and feel in Italy. After spending two weeks with two different, amazing families, it is easy to see that they value family the most and that is what’s most important. They can sit back and spend time with each other quite effortlessly on a daily basis without being too distracted.
Mangia, mangia! The Mister Project was worried about this one, lol! We both knew that staying with two Italian families meant a lot eating. And if you have not eaten food made by an Italian nonna or mama, you may not have yet heard, “mangia, mangia!”. And even when you do eat, it’s not enough. It’s a funny game to be played at dinner, but fair warning, get ready to mangia!
Stories from the past are important and should be shared. My cousin Elena is 83 years old and she has some incredible stories from her past in Fondi. My younger cousins laugh because I am sure they have heard all of these stories several times, but they are worth listening to and sharing. If an elder sits down and takes the time to tell you stories, it is so worth listening to.
Be a protagonist! My amazing cousin, Valeria, taught me this lesson. I always see the word “protagonist” on her facebook, so naturally, this was one of the first things I asked her when I saw her. Basically, to be a protagonist is to live life to the ultimate fullest. To be the lead character in your own life and to live, live and live some more! See the world, spend time with friends, laugh, love your family…you get the idea. Here we are living and loving life in Sperlonga.
Open up your home to friends and family. The Mister Project and I were so lucky to have had the opportunity to live with a family in Tuscany for a week and learn about their lives. It truly was one of the most amazing experiences of our lives and I would love to do the same for any friend or family member at any point. It’s a gift.
Fresh is best. Both families use what is in season and what they have. They keep is simple and very fresh. This here little salad is about as simple as it gets and paired with fresh buffalo mozzarella is like a dream come true.
One word: solare. My family in Italy works their buns off during the summer season at their restaurant on the beach. If the sun is shining, La Pineta is packed. With that being said, you can imagine how tiring it can get, yet they are always smiling and laughing. They say that a person of this sort is “solare”, has the face of the sun. They may be exhausted, but they are happy. I love their energy and perspective on life.
I have wine? If you know me well, you know I like to drink my vino. However, when the food is SO good you often forget to actually drink the wine next to your plate. This happened to me several times and it’s a beautiful thing.
Buongiorno! Everyone greets one another with salutations for the day. It is so wonderful to see strangers smile and say hello to each other. And any server walking by your table as you are about to eat will say “buon apetito!”
The sunsets in Italy are spectacular and not to be missed. I’ll let the photos do the talking.
No one has time for tan lines. I learned this the hard way. I wore my high waisted suit the first day on the beach…that was a terrible idea. As I mentioned the gorgeous women of Italy wear little bikinis and embrace the sun. Some even roll their bottoms into almost a thong, which makes for very minimal tans lines and a brown booty. It’s actually quite brilliant if you ask me!
Speaking “family” is sometimes good enough. My Italian is not good. I basically speak caveman Italian. But the language of family and love can you get you by and it truly is amazing how many conversations you can have with some help from other family members and patience to listen and understand.
They rarely overindulge. Perhaps it could have just been the people we were with, but it seemed quite rare for any of my or Susanna’s family to repeatedly over a drink or eat. I like that they have a happy medium and know the word “moderation”. You can also see it in their waistlines.
Love it. Live it. Share it.