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Embracing Dolce Far Niente: Discovering the Art of Doing Nothing in Italy

Updated: May 3

Embrace the Italian art of dolce far niente. Discover the joy of doing nothing, savouring each moment, and finding contentment in life's simple pleasures.
A sunset of light blues, pinks, and oranges illuminates sparse clouds over a sandy beach. The sky reflects on the water of the sea.
Sunset over "Vazzano Beach" in Vibo, Calabria. Photo by Emily Fata.

Picture this: You're sitting at a cozy café in a quaint Italian village, an espresso in your hand, with the gentle murmur of conversation and the aroma of freshly baked pastries filling the air. As you soak in the warm Mediterranean sun, you can't help but notice the leisurely pace of life around you—the locals walking and talking on an early morning stroll, pausing to look at shop windows, before making plans to meet up at the beach after work.


Sounds like they’re living the life, right? In reality, they’re simply doing something that all of us can (and should) do: savouring each moment and embracing the art of dolce far niente, the sweetness of doing nothing.


A piece of round toast with Nutella on it, the top thicker to look like hair. Cheerios are placed on the "face" in the shape of a smile.
A suave Nutella toast. Photo by Emily Fata.

Appreciating the Moment with Dolce far Niente


In Italy, time seems to slow down, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the present moment. While it took me having to be on a two-month holiday with no work obligations clouding my mind to fully immerse myself in this state of mind, the Italians seems to do it without a second thought. For them, it’s just a way of life, a way of being.


Whether you're strolling through the winding streets of Rome, admiring centuries-old architecture, or lounging on the sun-kissed shores of the Tyrrhenian Sea, you'll find yourself completely enthralled by the beauty and simplicity of everyday life. Because (surprise, surprise) your existence doesn’t have to be a tornado of stress and frustration, of jumping from one meeting to the next and resting only when it’s time to go to sleep.


But what does that mean for us who are living, working, and being shaped by a society outside of Italy?


Observe and absorb what they have mastered, the art of relishing in the small joys of life—a leisurely meal shared with loved ones, a sunset over the rolling hills of Tuscany, or a slow evening stroll through charming piazzas. By embracing dolce far niente, we can learn to appreciate the beauty of the here and now, finding contentment in life's simple pleasures.


Two girls with sunglasses taking a selfie. The sea is behind them.
Beach selfie with my cousin Vittoria.

Cultivating Connection


Central to the Italian way of life is the importance of human connection. From lively family gatherings to spirited conversations with neighbours, Italians place a high value on community. As someone who has grown up within this culture (albeit, a slightly watered down Canadian version), this is something that is quite easy. For starters, meals are not just about eating, but are opportunities to come together, share stories, and forge lasting bonds. Whether I’m at home in Toronto eating a full meal for a special occasion with my loved ones or in Italy having a snack at an outdoor bar with my cousins as we jump from place to place, there are great conversations to be had in these moments.


As you wander through bustling markets or linger in cozy trattorias, you'll witness the genuine warmth and hospitality of the Italian people. When you come back home, wherever ‘home’ may be, you can usher in that warmth, as well; prioritize meaningful connections with others, and you’ll foster a sense of belonging and fulfillment in your life.


A veggie burger between a freshly baked bun, served on a white plate.
Quinoa veggie burgers for lunch. Photo by Emily Fata.

Nurturing Well-Being


In a world filled with constant hustle and bustle, it's easy to overlook the importance of self-care and relaxation. I’ve been a prime example of failing at this, so, no—I’m not sitting on a high horse, either. The last time I went to Italy (this past summer), I arrived in a flurry of stress that had nothing to do with post-pandemic travel and everything to do with not being able to teach myself that taking a break was not only beneficial to my mental health, but totally necessary for it.


A woman laying on a towel on the beach under an umbrella. The sea is behind her, with the sun setting in an ombré of pinks and purples.
Checking in with my family in Canada while lounging on the beach. Photo by Vittoria Urzetta.

Yet, in Italy, taking time to unwind and recharge is a cherished ‘tradition,’ so to speak. Whether it's indulging in a riposo (afternoon nap) to escape the midday heat or enjoying a short walk to change your scenery and clear the mind, Italians understand the importance of prioritizing their well-being. For the longest time, I did not, but it was something I learned slowly with each passing day, until—when I eventually returned to Toronto (and work) in October—I had this balanced lifestyle integrated fully into my existence.


Work is important, of course, but so is taking a moment to pause. To inhale. To exhale.


We can learn to listen to our bodies and minds, honouring our need for rest and rejuvenation. Whether it's curling up with a good book, practicing mindfulness, or simply taking a moment to breathe, we can find balance in the art of doing nothing.


Embracing Creativity


Italy has long been a source of inspiration for artists, writers, and thinkers alike. This information should really should come as no surprise. From the Renaissance masterpieces of Florence to the literary wonders of Venice, the country's rich cultural heritage continues to fuel creativity and innovation. Not to mention the cathedrals and basilicas all over the nation, which are works of art in and of themselves.



For me, I found my creativity again in watercolours, painting little scenes on blank postcards every morning from the top of a hill overlooking the small town I was staying in. I had barely touched watercolours in the past, typically opting for heavier oil or acrylic on canvas or a simple pencil or charcoal. With my paints and little cup of water, I felt inspired to flex my creativity and delve into something newer and more exciting. Something that required a new skill and learning new techniques.


A woman sitting on the edge of an old castle wall. The sun is setting behind her.
Lounging on castle walls in Vibo Valentia. Photo by Vittoria Urzetta.

Embracing dolce far niente allows us to tap into our own creative potential, enabling ourselves the space and freedom to explore new ideas and pursuits. Whether it's painting, writing, cooking, or simply daydreaming, the art of doing nothing can be a powerful catalyst for self-expression and personal growth.


Finding Joy in Simplicity


In a world obsessed with productivity and success, the Italian philosophy of doing nothing and fully embracing that concept offers a refreshing perspective on the pursuit of happiness. Instead of chasing after material wealth or external validation, Italians find joy in the simple pleasures of life—food, family, friends, nature, art, architecture. Through this, we, too, can learn to let go of the constant need for more and instead focus on cultivating gratitude and contentment in the present moment.


In doing so, we may discover that true happiness lies not in what we achieve or acquire, but in how fully we embrace the beauty of the world around us. Isn’t that a lovely thought?


Embracing Imperfection


A woman smiling next to a glass cup with a grinning tiki face on it.
Tiki or Emily? Photo by Vittoria Urzetta.

In our fast-paced, hyper-connected world, there's often pressure to strive for perfection in every aspect of our lives. Yet, the Italian concept of dolce far niente reminds us that it's okay to embrace imperfection and simply be. Maybe it’s the fact that something you hoped to accomplish by a particular deadline is just impossible to get done—there’s no use crying over it. Take a deep breath, do what you can, and get it done when you can manage to get it done. Maybe you were cooking something and it burned. Are you going to die? No. If it’s edible, eat it, and if it isn’t, toss it and try again (or make something completely new—or go to your local pizzeria to grab a personal pizza and call it a day).

The same applies to everything else. By letting go of rigid expectations and embracing the spontaneity of the present moment, we can find freedom and joy in the beauty of imperfection.


All in All


How can you incorporate the dolce far niente philosophy into your own life? Whether it's carving out time for relaxation, prioritizing meaningful connections, or finding joy in the simple pleasures, embracing the sweetness of doing nothing can enrich our lives in profound ways.


So, why not take a cue from the Italians and slow down, savouring each moment and finding contentment in the art of simply being? As you embark on your own journey of self-discovery and exploration, may you find inspiration in the timeless wisdom of these practices.


 

8 Comments


Tamara E
Tamara E
May 05

Wow! 🤩 What a great job of transporting me through your journey Emily!


Not enough is written about all the fun stuff to do and history that you can experience in older towns and areas in Italy.


Thank you for letting us see that through your lens!


Time to book a trip to Italy!😉

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Tameka Heath-Harding
Tameka Heath-Harding
May 03

Not enough people talk about the relevance and importance of just doing nothing sometimes and how much psychological benefits there to gain from it. Italy is certainly on to something.

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Merideth Myers
Merideth Myers
May 02

I love this idea. I have to fight the urge to over plan an itinerary, and this post helps me see that just enjoying being in Italy would be enough to create a beautiful day!

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neversaydiebeauty
May 02

You will laugh, but every time I've been in Italy I am always on the go because I have so many things I am eager to do! Nevertheless, dolce far niente is a goal I long for in Italy and elsewhere!

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carol.colborn
May 02

The Blue Zones where people live to be 100 are placés where dolce far niente is practiced!

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