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“Il dolce” learned in Rome … and rural Alabama

friends enjoying at table


Scarlett Rose Ford - published on 06/08/23

The Italian life motto is something Southerners seem to have down, too.

When moving from rural Alabama to the heart of Rome, Italy, the last thing I expected was any similarity between the two places. There aren’t any Romans sporting worn-in cowboy boots or driving jacked-up pickup trucks; “country music” and “football” need to be preceded with “American” to make any sense. In Rome, I was like a fish out of the Tennessee River. Everything felt other-worldly — until I experienced the common slowness of life.  

Il dolce far niente — literal translation: the sweetness of doing nothing — is the Italian life motto. It’s all about slowing down, taking every moment in. Nothing is done in a rush. It’s something Southerners seem to have down too, but instead of enjoying a cold beer on the porch swing, Italians meet for an evening aperitivo at the corner bar. 

For those of us who have not yet mastered slow living, not rushing may seem like a foreign concept. It’s easy to think, But I could be doing so much with that time! True, but how much do we actually enjoy our lives if we’re so go-go-go? So often we’re wrapped up in our own worlds — worlds we create on social media, our work worlds, etc. — that we forget about the natural world around us. We stick our heads so far in our phone screens that we can’t recognize the true beauty of our planet: If God didn’t want us to appreciate the world around us, He wouldn’t have made it so beautiful. How often do we take a moment to do nothing, to just sit and appreciate God’s creation? 

I myself am guilty of trying to speed everything up and multitask, especially when it comes to prayer: listening to Rosary recordings at 2x speed in the car, quickly praying on the way to class or work. God calls us to friendship with Him, but what if I only talked to my friends as fast as possible while driving or walking, just to get it out of the way? What sort of friend would I be? Slow living in a fast-paced world is not easy, but it’s necessary. To live il dolce far niente is counter-cultural, rebellious even, in our society that measures worth in success. In order to be fully human and fully alive, we need to slow down, take in the sweetness of God’s creation, and simply do nothing.


This is part of the series called “The Human Being Fully Alive” found here.

The Human Being Fully Alive
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