Things I Love

Dolce Far Niente |Life Envy and the Sweetness of Doing Nothing in Rome

May 25, 2014

My weekend started with a glass of white wine and a conversation about life envy. You know the kind – those Instagram photos of endless brunches, dinners, pastries, beaches, shopping, and travels, with no mention of work, money, stress, or reality. Where you look at a person’s life through a filtered lens and wish you were her.  As I sat there talking about these perfect lives with two colleagues, one of them took a photo of our wine glasses – a trio of red, white, and rosé – and then it hit us. What if we inspire life envy in others? After all, the sun was shining, and we were sitting outside drinking wine on an adorable Roman street full of flowers and fiat 500s. Not to mention, we walk through this gorgeous city daily, eat some of the best food in the world every night, and spend weekends lounging on the Mediterranean. An outsider wouldn’t know that the week had been long, or that this Friday had been particularly maddening. They wouldn’t know that we sit at desks all day and look out the window at tourists enjoying the city, while we spend hours staring at a screen. They wouldn’t guess that we aren’t constantly out and about dining, sunbathing, and marveling at monuments. Still though, we had to admit to each other, despite the harrowing week and another ahead, we are pretty lucky. There are worse places to be stressed than Rome.

All this life envy talk brought us to another word, Schadenfreude, a German word that cannot be directly translated but essentially means ‘feeling pleasure at another’s misfortune.’ Essentially the opposite of life envy, or maybe how we would all feel if we saw those Instagrammers we’re envious of struggle for once. Every language has a lovely word or two that cannot be directly translated – a word that’s fundamental to the language, yet no one else can truly understand. The Italians have a phrase: Il Dolce far Niente. This one can be translated literally, to ‘the sweetness of doing nothing,’ or ‘delicious idleness,’ but it’s so much more than that. It’s sheer indulgent relaxation and blissful laziness, with no guilt, for no reason at all.

The Italians are masters at this. I, a constant list maker who hates sitting still, am not. But this weekend, I decided to give it a try, and after 48 hours of relaxation and bliss, I am convinced the Italians know what they’re doing. After Friday’s aperitivo, I went home and spent the evening cooking and reading. Saturday I wandered the city, stopping when I felt like it to sit, drink, nibble, read, shop, and people watch. In my mindless meanderings, I found vintage dresses and Afghan jewelry, and sipped coffee for pure joy, not only for caffeine. I sat by fountains and ate gelato, strolled side streets without a purpose, and ended up on a friend’s porch for more reclining and light conversation. Sunday I read and slept in a park, and now I’m writing this post – the one productive thing I’ve done all weekend. It has been glorious, and as it’s only 6pm, I have a few hours left to idly waste away before Monday morning sets in. Maybe I’ll get some pizza, or hang out by the trevi fountain… Indulge in one last glass of wine with a view, or taste a new flavor of gelato… Whatever I do, I’ll be sure to Instagram it for you, just in case you’re not envious yet. 😉

For a cute summary of Dolce far Niente, (and the explanation for why I don’t indulge too regularly – “you feel guilty because you’re American”), watch this 50 second clip from Eat, Pray, Love: Click here

And for more words that can’t be translated into English: Click here

(P.S. In case my fellow Type A personalities out there are reading this in horror, I must admit that as relaxing as this weekend was, I have four running lists in my head that I can’t wait to jot down and get started on in the morning – sigh. No one can say I didn’t try!)

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5 Comments

  • Reply jmfholland May 25, 2014 at 4:43 pm

    Ha Ha!! Love it!!

  • Reply alifemoment May 25, 2014 at 5:07 pm

    My ideal weekend is: “il dolce far niente” but unfortunately I have always something to do 🙂

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  • Reply Morgan March 3, 2016 at 2:26 am

    Lovely blog,I am enjoying it imeesnmly I feel I am there peeking over your shoulder and soaking in the atmosphere.You take to writing naturally, so keep it up I will be tuning in to your latest adventures. I love the market pics, of course. Food pics are great!J

    • Reply curiosityandacarryon March 3, 2016 at 12:51 pm

      Hi Morgan, that’s so sweet of you to say! Thank you! I love markets too – stay tuned for more market pics in the future. 🙂

    I love to hear from you!

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