Have you ever spent a sunny day laying in the grass doing nothing but looking at the how the light shines through the leaves of the tree above you? Or spent an entire Sunday afternoon around a table indulging in good food and good company. Fully present, fully engaged, enjoying the moment so much you are not worrying about what you need to do next, or what tomorrow will bring? The Italians have a phrase for these moments, it’s Il Dolce Far Niente– the sweetness of doing nothing.
Truly understanding il dolce far niente
I have a vivid memory of the moment when I truly embraced Il Dolce Far Neinte. It happened long before this phase became a trendy Instagram reel audio, and it wasn’t during the three years I lived in Florence. Ironically, it wasn’t until I left and returned to visit a friend who was living in Rome at the time. Like many recent graduates, she was grappling with the uncertainty of what to do next in her life.
On the other hand, I started working in a startup in Berlin about a month after graduating and had been engulfed in the whirlwind culture that comes with such an environment. Little did I know that weekend, arriving at her apartment in Rome with a bottle of wine in hand, would profoundly impact how I approached life going forward.
It was the summertime, and if you’ve ever been in Rome in August, you know how hot it can get. Since I was on PTO and she wasn’t working, we had no obligations. Having been to Rome on previous occasions and having already done the typical tourist attractions, we had no set plans.
Our days were instead spent lounging on the floor of her tiny one-room apartment, seeking refuge from the sun, sipping velvety red wines, paging through magazines, and watching films.
It was the first time in my life that I watched a movie in the morning. Initially, I felt a strange sense that I was doing something wrong, as it contrasted so starkly with the hustle culture I had been immersed in back in Berlin. Every moment of my day was consumed by work or the freelance projects I undertook to make ends meet.
However, as I gradually embraced the idea that it’s okay to simply exist, to relish in the moment without constantly striving for something, it dawned on me that this is what Il Dolce Far Neinte truly meant. I made a promise to myself that no matter how hectic life became, I would always make space to savor the sweetness of life.
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The Italian way
This seemingly little expression, “il dolce far niente” gives us a glimpse into the unique way that Italians approach life. It encapsulates their philosophy of enjoying the simple pleasures, savoring every moment, and embracing a balanced lifestyle.
It may be one of the secrets behind their long, healthy lives and the reason why Italy is home to one of the five blue zones, where people live exceptionally well into old age. From sipping espresso in a bustling café to indulging in delicious cuisine, Italians truly know how to appreciate the beauty of life. But Il Dolce Far Niente is more than just idleness and indulgence, it’s also about being present in the moment and finding joy in the little things.
While I’ve experienced this concept infiltrating into my own life adding to the joy I experience, I’ve turned to the Italians to understand what this concept of living means to them and why it’s so important to their culture.
What il dolce far niente means to italians
I have already established that “Il Dolce Far Niente” translates to “The Sweetness of Doing Nothing.” However, as anyone who has learned a new language can attest, direct translations often fail to capture the true essence of a phrase.
Through countless conversations with Italians, I have come to understand that “il dolce far niente” transcends a literal translation. It embodies a unique approach to life, one that embraces the sweetness found in every moment. It is not merely about idleness, but rather a mindset that allows one to savor even the smallest experiences.
So, while we may struggle to find the perfect words to convey its meaning, “il dolce far niente” is a reminder to cherish life and find joy in the simplest of moments.
One friend put it like this, “It’s not a way of thinking or a feeling, it is a part of the behavior and the attitude… Dolce far niente can be a part of any moment, but the key is to enjoy that time and to embrace the feeling. It’s necessary to be at peace with yourself, satisfied with yourself and your life, leaving all the “noises” of daily life outside”
She said for her it can be as simple as turning the twinkle lights on that intertwine with the rose vines on her perugla or noticing the warm glow that comes from lighting a candle– or staying to watch the sunset turn to stars at the end of the day.
One of her friends quickly replied, “It’s all about moments like sitting on the beach, watching the waves crash. While being alone with your thoughts and completely at peace” Her boyfriend, on the other hand, shared that it wasn’t so much about the location for him, but rather about being completely engrossed in whatever he was doing, even if it meant lying on the couch at home with a good book.
Il dolce far niente is for everyone
The beautiful thing about Il Dolce Far Neinte, aside from the obvious that it’s a poetic approach towards living consciously with gratitude for every moment, is that it’s something that is available to everyone.
It doesn’t matter what economic class you belong to because it’s not tied to what you have, where you are, or what you can buy, it’s connected to your mindset and your behavior toward how you choose to live your life.
Anyone can cultivate it. While it’s engrained in Italian culture, even if you’re not in Italy, you can still infuse your life with this enchanting philosophy. Take the time to appreciate the little things, indulge in moments of stillness, and find solace in the peacefulness of idleness.
By embracing Il Dolce Far Neinte, you can create a sense of balance and harmony in your life, no matter where you are in the world.
How to embrace it in your life
Find Peace Within Yourself and Your Life
What does that mean? Finding peace within yourself and your life means accepting your current situation, even if it differs from your aspirations. It means being content with who you are, while also striving for personal growth. Being in harmony doesn’t imply stagnation; rather, it signifies embracing the process and appreciating the present moment.
If you cannot find contentment with your present circumstances, it becomes challenging to fully embrace the present and find joy. Constantly worrying about the future or longing for a different reality hinders our ability to appreciate the beauty of the moment.
Create Space for moments of Slow
In our constant motion, rushing from one task to the next, we often switch to autopilot, missing out on the joy of being fully present. By intentionally creating space for moments of slowness, we can truly appreciate the little things in life and find happiness in the present moment.
This might involve taking a phone-free walk or enjoying a distraction-free picnic with friends. Discover ways to disconnect from the constant busyness and allow yourself to fully embrace the beauty of “doing nothing”.
Mindfulness is the act of being fully present in the moment, without judgment or distraction. By practicing mindfulness, you can learn to appreciate and savor each moment as it comes, rather than rushing through life on autopilot.
Incorporate mindfulness into your daily routine by setting aside a few minutes each day to focus on your breath, or by engaging in activities like meditation or yoga. By regularly practicing mindfulness, you can cultivate a deeper connection with yourself and the present moment.
Let go of expectations
Oftentimes, we hold onto certain expectations for ourselves and our lives that can lead to feelings of disappointment or frustration when things don’t go as planned. In order to truly enjoy the moment, it’s important to let go of these expectations and embrace life as it unfolds.
This doesn’t mean giving up on your goals or dreams, but rather being open to new experiences and possibilities that may not align with your initial expectations. By letting go of expectations, you can learn to find joy in unexpected moments and appreciate life’s twists and turns.
Gratitude is a powerful tool for finding joy in the present moment. Take time each day to reflect on the things you are grateful for – whether it’s your health, relationships, or simply a beautiful sunset.
By focusing on the positive aspects of your life, you can shift your perspective and find joy in even the smallest things. Additionally, expressing gratitude to others can deepen your relationships and bring more joy into your life.
In the end, remember that “Il Dolce Far Niente” is not just a phrase, but a way of approaching life. It’s about finding joy in the simplest of things and discovering peace within yourself. Each person’s version of it may vary, so stay open to life’s little pleasures, and you’ll gradually uncover your own “Il Dolce Far Niente”.