“The Sweet Life,” is so cliché, and overdone, I stated to a friend emphatically. It turns out, I just didn’t understand the meaning of “sweet life” until we moved to Italy. It is a way of savoring each day that is masterful here, especially in Tuscany.
If you mention eggs for breakfast to most Italians, they will physically shiver with disgust. Breakfast is about café and pastry. Breakfast is not large but it is not rushed. Italians have their coffee at their favorite local bar. When I first arrived, I would order my coffee port a via or to go. The bar owner would irritably start going through cabinets, looking for a to go cup for this wayward Starbucks trained American who is moving too fast to stop for her morning coffee. It turns out they were right. I haven’t seen a Starbucks since arriving in Italy two months ago, and I now stop for my coffee and stand at the bar with the locals and listen to the hum of a village waking up.
The theme for the afternoon is “eat dessert first.” Many Italians bridge the gap between lunch and dinner with a nap followed by gelato. I am not talking about a small cup of fat-free frozen yogurt with fruit topping. I am talking about a huge waffle cone, loaded with full cream gelato dripping onto cashmere sweaters and hand hewn leather loafers. Many Italians have dessert wine and cheese or fruit after their evening meal because they eat dessert first and they enjoy it!
It has been a big transition for us since American’s believe in not ruining dinner with unhealthy snacks. When we decided to try to “blend” we ordered the kids piccolo cuppeti (smallest cups possible of gelato) and actually received dirty looks from the other mothers in the shop because we were denying our children the double scoop at 5PM.
We are getting there, but patience is necessary as we settle into the sweet life. It is a shift from thinking that being able to delay gratification makes us stronger. Gelato in the afternoon is a statement that we are deserving of the sweet life. It is not indulgent or entirely fattening. It is joyful and delicious.
I saw this quote in a local gelato shop:
Seize the moment. Remember all the women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart. ~ Erma Bombeck