19 Life Lessons I’ve Learned from My Time in Italy

Sharing is good karma!

I’ve learned *so many* life lessons from my time in Italy! And my love for Italy, and all things Italian, is no secret. From the first day I stepped foot on the boot shaped land in 2013 – I felt a deep connection to Italy that has had me returning annually (with the exception of 2020). I’ve traveled to Italy for extended six-eight week trips as well as a move to Italy in 2022 for a business deal (that, unfortunately, fell through).

I have Italian blood running through my veins (from my moms side of the family). However, the watered down, stereotypical, Italian-American heritage is nothing in comparison to the culture from Italy itself. The lessons I’ve learned from my time in Italy has shaped who I am now. And the lessons I’ve learned from my time in Italy has also influenced how I choose to live. Here are the greatest life lessons from my time in Italy.

Life Lessons I’ve Learned from My Time in Italy

Slow Down (Except, of course, When You’re Driving)

As a native New Yorker, I was practically born on a “fast-forward” pace. It’s no secret that New Yorkers are always in a rush. Italians, however, are polar opposite. The slow pace that Italians approach life (and nearly everything else) with allows you to savor life and appreciate the small things. While it wasn’t easy to break the habit of rushing through life, the number one lesson I’ve learned from my time in Italy is to slow down. 

My appreciation for life has increased 100-fold, if not more, in the last decade that Italy has been influencing me. Slowing down has shown me that what I accomplish and produce isn’t half as important as how much I have to be grateful for. Noticing the things that we have to be grateful for is difficult if we never pause to smell the flowers. 

I like to refer Italians as, “the best-worst drivers in the world”. They drive erratically and so fast that you would never know they believe in a slow paced life. However, they do all respect the rules of the road – something we tend to forget here in America.

Eat Locally and Slowly

Slow, local, cuisine is the definition of Italian cooking. Everything from the cheeses to the preparations to the dishes themselves range widely from region to region. This is due to the availability of herbs, fruits, vegetables, dairy, seafood, etc varying in each region. As such, each region works with what they have an abundance of. 

When I was living in Tuscany I would often frequent small, family owned, restaurants that had no set menu. Rather, the chef would prepare a menu of the day based off the meat, cheese, and produce that was available that day from local farmers. 

This way of living and eating is how it should be globally. Many of our global emissions are from large scale, unsustainable, food production practices. If the entire world adopted the slow, local pace that I came to know and appreciate in Italy – we would all (including the world) be healthier and healthier. As I write this article, breaking news is that Italy is also moving to ban lab-made meat to protect food heritage.

The country’s respect for the land is witnessed directly through their cuisine – with heavy emphasis on local and fresh ingredients. This emphasis for “local ingredients” a deep respect for the earth and what it naturally provides us. The lesson to “eat locally and slowly” is a life lesson that many of us can learn from Italians.

Life Lessons I’ve Learned from My Time in Italy

When the Ingredients are High Quality – Simplicity is Best

Piggy-backing off eating locally, and slowly, is the art of simplicity in Italian cooking. When it comes to Italian cooking many of the dishes have five ingredients or less. I’ve seen people online critique some Italian cooking that they don’t season enough, blah, blah, blah. 

Italians have perfected the art of simplicity in food. No one goes to Italy and complains about the food, and if they do, there’s something wrong with them – not the food. The quality of the ingredients in Italy is so high that you don’t really need to do much to them to make a meal taste delicious.

Spend More Time Outside

Italy is known for so many beautiful landscapes from the Italian Alps to the rolling hills of Tuscany to the coastline of the Mediterranean. The vast array of landscapes open up heaps of opportunity for outdoor recreation and activities. But, the love for the land is also worked deep into the Italian lifestyle through their agriculture. Italian agriculture procures an appreciation, and deep respect, for the land. Agriculture, food production and preparation has been traditionally linked to the land and Italy has even introduced legislation to reward farmers for converting to organic farming.  With an understanding that organic farming is more sustainable, this law in itself shows the deep respect for the outdoors and nature that Italians hold.

This appreciation for the outdoors can be found in larger cities, as well, with a strong tradition of landscape architecture and garden design. Many towns and cities have parks and gardens so that even city dwellers can find their time outdoors and in nature. Spending more time outside and in nature is definitely a great life lesson from Italy.

Go for a Leisurely Stroll 

Italians appreciate their time outside so much that, even in the winter, you’ll see people out for a leisurely stroll. This leisurely walking is so prominent and engrained into the Italian culture that they even have a word for it -a passegiata which means a leisurely walk or stroll, especially one taken in the evening. 

I’ve worked my leisurely stroll into my lifestyle, even at home in America, as it’s one of the greatest life lessons I’ve learned from my time in Italy.

Life Lessons I’ve Learned from my Time in Italy

Family is the Only Constant Thing in Life

Italians are super family oriented and in many instances in Italy you’ll find multi-generations and extended family living in the same household. Some people will argue that family (la famiglia) is the most important aspect of life for Italians. 

I was staying with a friends family in a small village in Liguria in 2017 and I asked, “how has the family remained so important to Italians, even through the social shifts of modernity and westernization the last few decades” and everyone said some form of “family is the most important” but one person said, “because family is the only thing in life that is constant, everything always changes but family remains family”. That quote stuck with me and even gave me a deeper appreciation for my own family and how they remain throughout all of the other changes within and around me.

The lessons I’ve learned from Italy has carried over into a deep appreciation for my own family. Here’s an ode to my grandfather on my YouTube channel.

Life Lessons I’ve Learned from My Time in Italy

Relax More, Hurry Less

Italians are in no rush. You’ll see patrons at the bar (the word for café or coffee shop) before you’ll see people rushing about with a to-go coffee. 

Many Americans pick up some form of a fast food, often eating on the go in their car for lunch. In Italy, the majority of businesses close between 1-3pm so that everyone can go home and have a leisurely lunch. The concept of ‘skipping a meal’ to work on a project or “picking something up to eat on the way” is blasphemous to Italians.

Many of the Americans that I travel to Italy with get antsy at restaurants wondering, “where is the waiter” or “why haven’t they brought the check yet?”. In America, we’re often brought our check before we even finish the meal with the server reiterating, “for when you’re ready”. In Italy, you need to learn the phrase, “il conto, per favore” which means, “check, please” because no one will bring it to you until you ask. 

Italians have worked relaxation into their lifestyle so impressively that they naturally assume you’re enjoying yourself in conversation, even if you’ve finished your meal. They don’t want to rush you out to “fit another table in” because getting the most people into the restaurant as possible isn’t their goal – their patrons having a pleasurable, relaxing, time is.

Faith in God

I’ve always believed in a higher power, but it wasn’t until I started spending more time in Italy that my faith started to really run deep. There’s a saying “Metto nel’ mani di Lui” which means, “put it in his (God’s) hands”. Essentially meaning theres no need to worry, everything will work out as it should, trust God’s plan, have faith. 

A Life Wthout Art is No Life at All

Art is everywhere in Italy. You don’t need to visit the Uffizi (one of the oldest and most famous art museums in the world, located in Florence) or see the paintings of Da Vinci or the sculptures of Michelangelo to experience the rich artistic history in Italy. Most of Italian lifestyle has a connection to aesthetics and Italians appreciate beauty in all forms. Italy also still has a deep appreciation for artisans of all sorts from shoe to winemakers. In Italy, art is seen as a way to not only appreciate but also express beauty.  

Everyday Offers an Opportunity to Rediscover the Beauty of Life

Jumping off the belief that a life without art is no true life at all – Italians also believe that every day is a gift and that life itself is a gift. This is one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from Italy. To simply be grateful for being alive (and it also inspired the name of my website: “Jackie is Alive”).  

Italians believe that everyday produces an opportunity to rediscover all the beauty that life has to offer. From the flavor of a delicious meal to the craftsmanship that goes into a leather shoe to the way the sunlight hits the roofs of the buildings as it starts to set – there is beauty in everything and Italians have learned to appreciate, admire and celebrate the everyday beauty just as much as they appreciate, admire and celebrate the bigger things.

Quality > Quantity

From fashion to vehicles to wine – the pride that Italians have in their craftmanship runs deep. I’m talking, “centuries” deep. Italy is home to a rich history of art and architecture which has manifested as a cultural appreciation for quality over quantity. Italians have a keen eye for detail and would prefer one, quality, product over 10 cheap versions.

After spending time in Italy I downsized my closet by over 80%. Instead of looking for trendy, fast fashion pieces – now, I focus on finding one staple, timeless, (often designer) piece at a time.

Dress Well, Everyday

Italians don’t value quality over quantity to let their nice attire sit in the closet. You’ll very rarely see an Italian walking around in sweatpants and it would be considered blasphemous to walk outside in pajamas. Italians have a deep pride for how they present themselves and aim to dress well, every day, not just for special occasions. Dressing well, even just to run errands, is definitely a life lesson I’ve learned from Italy and Italians.

The Greatest Life Lessons I’ve Learned from My Time in Italy

Prioritize Pleasure

Italians are masters of the simple pleasures in life. It’s no wonder that they’re famous for sayings such as, “La Dolce Vita” (the sweet life) or “il Dolce far Niente” (the sweetness of doing nothing”. Enjoying life is a cultural value in Italy. Italians don’t feel that they need to be doing something productive or achieving specific goals and that they can leisurely enjoy the simplicities of life. 

Taking time to relax and enjoy the world around me has helped me to appreciate how much beauty I have around me. I’m so grateful for this lesson from my Italian friends, clients and acquaintances! My mindset has shifted – simply from being inspired to slow down and prioritize my pleasure, my joy, my life, and being alive.

Speak from your Heart

The Italian language is annunciated with theatrical and impassioned expression and I love it so much. Italians don’t speak just to be heard, they speak directly from their heart. The emotion and energy in their communication helps with translating because you can often feel what they mean, even if you don’t quite understand it.

Work to Live, Don’t Live to Work

Of all the lessons I’ve learned from my time in Italy, I find that the lessons surrounding their work culture have hit me the hardest (in the best way possible). Prior to working with clients in Italy – I was a proper workaholic. I believed that “hustling hard” was the only way to succeed and very much had a, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” mentality. 

My time in Italy has eased my relationship with my work. Teaching me that the, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” mentality will put you in a grave. Click to Tweet

My first few contracts in Italy were hard to get used to. The client would schedule a lunch or dinner upon my arrival and then not discuss business. It was mind boggling to me. They paid for my flights, accommodations and arranged for me to come to Italy to work with them and then didn’t want to discuss our contract. 

Establishing a laid-back, calm, and casual friendship and building trust is important to Italians before doing business. They trust that the work will get done, eventually. But, first they want to ensure that they know who they’re working with. 

Punctuality and deadlines aren’t as important as in America. Often, I had flexibility built into my deadlines because Italians understand that life happens. And “work” is far from the most important thing in an Italians life. 

Italians believe that they work to live and they never live to work. That mentality took me about 5-6 years to adopt but it has also helped me to soften into my feminine essence in business. Simply because entrepreneurship is something that is typically a masculine endeavor. If interested, you can also read How I Reclaimed my Feminine Energy as a Female Entrepreneur

The Greatest Life Lessons I’ve Learned from My Time in Italy

Respect: for Self but Especially our Elders

Italian culture has a deep value for their elders. Italians view their elders as a source of wisdom and experience. The opinions of their elders hold weight and often come with a profound respect. Where many grandparents/elders in America live in retirement or nursing homes – in Italy grandparents/elders often stay in the home, as the head of the family, with the younger generations providing for them. 

Appreciating My Face

I know this may sound weird but hear me out. Italians aren’t into plastic surgery, fillers and Botox the way Americans are. The appreciation for natural beauty that Italians hold has helped me to become more appreciative of my own face, in its natural state. During my time in Italy I started wearing less and less makeup until my makeup routine became, “not wearing any”. It is March 28th as I’m writing this, and I can note three days this year that I wore makeup: – my birthday, in my first YouTube video and last weekend at my cousins baby shower. 

La Bella Figura

The first time I heard this – I thought my actual bodily figure was being referred to. However, as I’ve spent more time in Italy I’ve learned that it’s more of a cultural ideology. While, sure, some physical appearance is taken into account it’s more a reflection on how one carries herself. Her values, her morals, her behavior, social skills, etiquette and manners. La Bella Figura places an prioritizes the importance of making a good impression and even striving for excellence. I’ve adopted my own la bella figura by leaning into appreciating the features I was born with, the values and morals I grew up on, and finding a love and appreciation for my own personal style.

Less is More

From their appreciation for simplicity in their cuisine, to their reverence of quality over quantity the ideology that “less is more” can be seen throughout many aspects of Italian culture. Italians have a deep appreciation for beauty, style, and aesthetics. Equally important, there is a noted preference for understated, simple, timeless elegance over trendy and flashy. 

Life Lessons I’ve Learned from My Time in Italy

From slowing down to wearing less makeup, to downsizing my closet, to a deeper faith in God and a greater appreciation for my family… I have learned so many wonderful life lessons from my time in Italy. The Italian culture is rich in life, love and beauty. All of these things are free to those who seek them. I believe that I’ve also just touched the tip of the iceberg and can’t wait to continue living, loving and learning in Italy.

Like it? Pin it!

Sharing is good karma!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *