The Art of Doing Nothing, Italian Style

This past Sunday, The Huffington Post published an article titled “The Ultimate Italian Yoga Retreats and Vacations.” As a yogi and wine enthusiast, I launched into a clicking frenzy and began fantasizing about downward dogging in a sun-soaked vineyard. Bacchus would have been proud. 

Italy is a prime location for a yoga retreat–thanks in no small part to its devotion to dolce far niente, or the art of doing nothing. I witnessed dolce far niente firsthand last July when I ventured out to the boot-shaped country with my family. In addition to the plethora of carby delights, I was infatuated with the Italian appreciation for relaxation and mindfulness, an approach that seeps into many aspects of the country's culture. My family and I caught on quickly, enjoying the creation of the homecooked meal—the roll of a soft tomato in our hands, the smell of rising focaccia. We were immersed in the simmers and scents that filled the kitchen. 

The Italians treat their yoga practices in a similar mindful fashion. Many retreats offer their classes early in the morning in order to give yogis the afternoon to enjoy dolce far niente. 

The Huffington Post describes these Italian yoga retreats as follows:

Once you’re [at the retreat], you’ll spend plenty of time “practicing” but also talking about it, a useful strategy to avoid mulling over personal, work-related, and metropolitan conundrums ... The group dynamics couldn’t be livelier, and you can opt out or participate: to talk about practicing yoga and listen (and leaving your cellphone in your room every so often). And the presence of a community – not virtual by any means – will come in handy. 

HuffPo's recommendations include Il Casale, located in Central Italy, and just a few miles from a lake, the sea, and muscle-calming hot springs. Ca’ Le Suore is more social, with a spacious farmhouse offering guests the opportunity to dine and practice with their fellow yogis. 

If you’re in Southern Italy, consider Yoga in Solento. While the resort looks like a cross between a Hollywood home and an Italian farm, it’s main motive is sustainability. Guests will enjoy meals of fruits and veggies found directly on the premise, and yoga programs include classes Ashtanga, Dharama, Acroyoga, and Ishta. Heck, you can give bring your dog! Or as the Italians say, il cane.

While “the art of doing nothing” may rattle the nerves of overworked Americans, psychologists recommend the activity, as it is known to ease stress and promote mindfulness.

Dr. Colleen Long from Psychology Today says:

The sweetness of doing nothing and enjoying where we are in the present moment is the greatest thanks we can give for the lives and blessing we have.

All the noise—the Facebook, the reality TV, the latest and greatest no-one-can-get-in-there-without-calling-a-month-ahead restaurant—it all fades away when we can just do nothing. What surfaces is life- our feelings at the moment (whether it be grace or despair), our ego vanishes and our true self emerges.

If you’ve ever needed an excuse to visit Italy, now’s your chance. Dolce far niente may help you rekindle a sense of peace and gratitude. Oh, and the homemade linguine doesn’t hurt either. 

What do you think of dolce far niente? Do you get enough of it?

Photo via iStock


Amanda kohr

Amanda Kohr is a 24-year-old writer and photographer with a penchant for yoga, food, and travel. She prefers to bathe in the moonlight rather than the sun, and enjoys living in a state of the three C’s: cozy, creative, and curious. When she’s not writing, you can find her driving her VW Bug, looking for the next roadside attraction or family diner. She also roams the Internet via her blog at...READ MORE