In America, you go your whole life shaming yourself when you’re “lazy,” then you go to Italy where dolce far niente is an accepted, practiced, and perfected art form.
Italians sit with friends and family slowly sipping on tiny porcelain cups filled with espresso in between chain-smoking their cigarettes. They look around at what’s happening around them, and if you’re seated at a terrasse, you’re most likely looking out onto a cobble-stoned courtyard with an old ass statue, a beautiful stone water fountain, and little Italianos kicking around a soccer ball.
And they’re content. They’re taking a moment for themselves. They aren’t on their phones 24/7. This isn’t boring to them. They aren’t doing anything, but they also aren’t not doing anything. Promise that makes some sense…in some way.
The most dolce far niente (the art of doing nothing) of all dolce far nientes happen on Sunday, where everyone and their mom close their shops to the public. What this means to an American is that you 1) will have one shop open that sells everything at three times the price (I bought a small water bottle for three euros once), 2) sucks to be you if you didn’t do your grocery shopping on Saturday, and 3) must commit to dolce far niente, whether you want to or not.
My evening of dolce far niente began at 7pm, when, after drinking my cappuccino that tasted like cold milk, I decided to see just how difficult it’d be to find another coffee somewhere else. My first mistake: drinking a cappuccino at 7pm (a cultural faux pas in Italy). My second mistake: drinking a cappuccino from a hostel café.
Next door was Bar da Monica, and further down on the island of Giudecca, Venice was another bar named Bar da Lele and Neke – that looked like a typical pub you’d find older men playing at a machine casino games, or smoking cigars outside. Clearly I fit in.
I settle on a nice restaurant named Majer Venezia where I also didn’t fit in with the clientele. I awkwardly asked if they spoke English, or another romance language, then I awkwardly asked if I could order a cappuccino, then I awkwardly asked if I could have some bread. After a few weird looks all around (I forgot you can’t just customize orders like you can in the USA), and paying €2.10 instead of €1.70 because I was eating inside and taking up prime real estate in the restaurant, I started to officially feel like I was traveling.
My cappuccino and bakery bread arrived, and I began writing this blog that is now coming to an end.
These little adventures in Italy, I want to experience them more often.
Maybe it all starts with a little bit more dolce far niente.