I am back from my very first trip to Italy! What a beautiful country, full of history, art, and of course delicious food! One of the biggest impressions I’m left with after my two-week vacation was the quality of the Italian lifestyle. There’s no doubt that the Italians are skilled at living “la dolce vita”, or “the good life”, so I thought I’d share a few ways to incorporate a little of the dolce vita into your own hectic lifestyle.

Eat fresh, local, and non-processed: Italy is known for its pasta, pastries, gelato, and wine, so it’s only natural to wonder why their obesity rate is amongst the lowest in the world, while America ranks second as the most obese nation. One of the biggest reasons that Italians are generally healthier than Americans is because their food is fresh, locally sourced, and free of GMO’s. Along with most other countries in the world, Italy has banned GMO’s, which have been linked to a plethora of negative side affects including chronic inflammation and cancer. Be sure to buy fresh, local produce when possible and look for foods labeled as non-GMO.

Life outside of work: In the entire two weeks I spent in Italy, not once was I or my husband asked, “What do you do?” Why? Because they could care less! They work to live, rather than live to work! That’s literally a foreign concept for most Americans, who are overworked, constantly connected, and sleep-deprived. The culture in Italy is much more focused on living, rather than working. They are not lazy mind you, but at the end of the day, they focus on what’s important: family, friends, and good food!

Schedule time to disconnect: It’s rare to see people on cell phones in the streets of Italy, and practically a cardinal sin to be seen with one at dinner. Our constantly connected society is doing us no favors in terms of health. Never taking time away from the computer or your smart phone lead to stress, sleeping disorders, and depression. Make sure to take a mental health break by creating downtime, free from technology.

Take time for meals: At first I was irritated with what I considered “slow service” while dining out in Italy. What I came to realize was that it’s considered rude to rush people through their meals. Italians assume you want to take your time, and why shouldn’t we? Meal times are meant to be about more than just the food. It’s time to connect with others, relax, and forget about the stresses of your day. The slower pace will also improve your waistline, by giving your body time to realize it’s full before moving on to the next course.

Biking isn’t just for kids: We seem to have forgotten that bikes are a mode of transportation. Everywhere we went in Italy I saw people in their 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s riding their bikes to do their daily errands. You may be surprised to learn that the two biggest factors contributing to longevity are staying active (not going to the gym necessarily, but gardening and physical chores) and being part of a community.