Sure, Italians are known for their love of food, wine, art, and all that is beautiful, but they also have a rich tradition of living in tune with the earth and appreciating all that it has to offer. Here is a list of just a few of those things that embody this tradition.
1. Outside: it’s the place to be
Especially during the warmer months, coastal sidewalks, piazzas, and parks are full of friends, couples, and families taking strolls. And there’s a term for it, the sali e scendi, which translates to describe the practice of taking a long walk back and forth on a long path for evening entertainment.
Kids and adults alike usually have a particular place somewhere in a piazza or outdoor seating space of a bar where they habitually meet with friends. Here they enjoy the art of hanging out, chatting, and people-watching. Hanging out outside is common in Italy, and I think it is beautiful.
2. Just look at their balconies or window sills- they’re full of herbs and veggie plants
My husband finds it silly that big homes in America are often surrounded by just wide expanses of grass and an occasional decorative tree, asking: “why don’t they grow some plants”?! That’s because in his Italian mind, any outdoor space is meant for growing something useful or beautiful. Even here in the city, where some balconies like mine are miniscule, you’ll likely see rosemary, hot pepper, or basil plants growing to proudly enhance cooking aromas.
3. Recycle or pay
In many major cities, apartments complexes are taxed based on the amount of non-recyclable garbage they produce. In Milan for example, there are areas of the complex dedicated to recycling paper, plastic/metal, glass, and even compost! The rest that doesn’t get recycled goes into separate containers, and based on the quantity, the taxes are adjusted.
Some of you who know Italy well may be rolling your eyes at this, knowing that the trash system is far from universal and functional. But politics aside, it IS a step in the right direction that DOES work in the cities that have enforced it.
4. There are popular outdoor activities, and sometimes vacation time, to embrace each season
Summer: Ferragosto is the official Summer holiday where all businesses, and basically everything, shut down so that people can vacation at the beach (if that’s your preferred relaxation method) or to the mountains (to cool off and breathe fresh air).
Fall: Mushroom or chestnut season, where families go into the woods searching for tasty treats
Winter: Catholic holidays and the Settimana Bianca (White Week, because of the snow) combine to give many people a break from work or school to go skiing for a week.
Spring: with Easter as an excuse to use some vacation time, many go to the countryside to enjoy the blooming and colorful natural sights.
5. Fruits and veggies everywhere!
In New York, farmers’ markets are an event where people often pay a premium for organic, and fancy produce. In Italy, these places are simply the produce store, and the more South you go, the more they are. As a disclaimer, it is true that in the North there is a growing trend towards buying these items in grocery stores, but go anywhere in the South, and you’ll see that customers do not only personally know their produce guy, they also choose and are faithful to the ones that provide them with only the highest quality available.
And why do they personally know their produce guy? Because most Italians consume lots of fruits and veggies every day, so multiple trips per weeks to Gino’s produce is a necessity.
Have you ever been to Italy and participated in some of these activities? I’d love to hear from you! 🙂