There’s a whole lot of dolce fa niente going on in Italy. I’m talking sitting around a bar, aperitivo o’clock and a general feeling of doing nothing (and yes, I’m talking about the infamous scioperos or strikes – often on Fridays or the day between the weekend and a public holiday).
Little did I know until a recent visit to Italy that this phenomena is well-known in Italy and that it has a name – dolce fa niente, or the sweetness of doing nothing, being idle and, let’s be honest, completely lazy.
I’m going all Anglo Saxon again, I’m somewhat saying it like it’s a bad thing. STOP! Essentially it’s about being in the moment, not working furiously (or in fact at all) and seeing what that moment might bring.
Let’s see how Thoreau explains it: “When I go out of the house for a walk, uncertain as yet whither I will bend my steps, and submit myself to my instinct to decide for me, I find, strange and whimsical as it may seem, that I finally and inevitably settle south-west, toward some particular wood or meadow or deserted pasture or hill in that direction.”
(Of course you can always substitute meadow with bar. I’m sure Thoreau would agree.)
Dolce fa niente is a little hard to cultivate as a non-Italian. Even English websites explaining the concept tend to dress it up as enjoying the good life after a hard day’s work. I’m no expert, but I’ve just spent six weeks in Italy and I’m pretty sure it’s not after a hard day’s work. There I go getting all Anglo Saxon again, I can feel the disapproval running through my fingers to the keyboard!
In fact, there doesn’t have to be a reason for dolce fa niente and there’s no need to ever feel guilty about doing nothing. Whew, that was hard to say. Let’s try doing it.
In good ole Australia, as we don’t have the concept of an aperitivo hour, and an old man at a bar at breakfast with a beer would be labelled a drunk (and possibly is a drunk). It’s also quite hard to practice dolce fa niente as a tourist in Italy due to the constant pressure to go/see/do – usually great works of art of ancient types just hangin’ around.
But maybe this concept is something worth succumbing to for a few hours once a week, just to dream, be still or observe life from a sidewalk cafe. But being an Anglo Saxon, I’d have to schedule it – how very un-Italian!