There’s nothing like a good reminder to slow down, be present, and take a breath. For me, this usually comes in the form of a yoga class (which I’m always running in to, out of breath, because I’ve crammed it in between a couple of meetings). I’m working on it.
But in August, slowing down came in the form of majestic Florence, Italy. Experts at being present, the Italians have somehow managed to find the best parts of life, and execute them flawlessly. Espresso is meant to be enjoyed in the moment, and thus Florentines drink coffee while standing at the café coffee bar before heading to work. As the person who is usually rushing to the next commitment with a to-go coffee cup in hand, I delighted in this tradition.
Meals are experiences, which we took full advantage of, filling small cobblestone alfresco areas with our family laughter as we filled our stomachs until they ached. But there is always room for gelato, and even late on a Tuesday evening, locals could be spotted sitting on church steps and perched on motorbikes, enjoying the cool breeze and a cup of stracciatella or a glass of red wine (in a real glass, of course).
Care and time are reserved for creating fine wines and limoncello, delectable black truffle pasta dishes and some of the creamiest mozzarella you’ll ever taste. Some of the most renowned artwork exists within a half-mile radius, making it effortless to bounce from Michelangelo’s David to da Vinci to Botticelli by foot, leaving plenty of time to stand in awe, and even grab a fresh lemon gelato between destinations.
While driving through miles of rolling hills in Chianti wine country, or exploring the colorful coastline of Cinque Terre by boat, you can’t help but contemplate how you can take a little slice of that peace and integrate it into a culture that worships the grind.
And on an early Monday morning, if you walk across the Ponte Vecchio to a small church garden on the Arno River, you can find 15 retired men, drinking espresso, playing games and laughing so loud their voices bounce off of the ancient stone walls into the surrounding streets. You’ll have the chance to grab a pastry at the river’s edge and admire just how right they are living their lives.
So what’s the takeaway? It’s probably the same takeaway I’ve been proclaiming for years. Always travel, far and often. And whatever you do, make sure you take home a life lesson or two (or twenty).