According to scientists at Leicester University, people stay healthier for longer, in Italy, compared with those in other European countries. And the differences in the Euro health league tables are really quite striking with Italy appearing first for good health. But why is this? Why do Italians live longer? And why do they also seem to be happier? There is a lot in the media about loneliness, mindfulness and stress but this seems to be something that Italians have been aware of for centuries. Social interactions are deeply ingrained into the Italians lives and they negotiate these issues with ease, and perhaps without even being fully aware that they are addressing them at all on a daily basis. Social relationships both quantity and quality have been proven to affect mental health, health behaviour, physical health, and mortality risk. But is this secret to a longer life? We believe it is a very important factor and it is for a combination of reasons that the Italians are living “La Dolce Vita."
1. Family values
Family is the most important thing to Italians. They are proud of their relations and family get togethers are a treasured event. Relatives welcome each other with open arms, kisses and an enthusiasm which never falters. Any occasion is an opportunity to get together and eat together. Disagreements are had of course, sometimes even often but they are aired (loudly) and openly and resolved usually just as quickly. There is no such thing as biting your tongue and bottling it up. Italians get things out there preventing built up bad feelings and let’s face it they are family after all so that is just fine.
2. If you’re going to love someone, Love Them Passionately
When an Italian falls in love they want the world to know! Every other word they speak becomes “amore!” They embrace each other often and with passion. Public signs of affection are met with smiles by onlookers. People are happy for them. The relationships are usually long but when marriage finally arrives so does a very large wedding! With all members of the family being invited from far and wide the love is celebrated in true Italian style with a feast fit for a king and music and dancing.
3. Show your emotions
Italian men do not shy away from their emotions. Neither are emotions seen in any way to compromise their masculinity. Emotions are there to be shared and if an Italian man or woman wants to cry then they will. Crying, shouting and laughing are all parts of natural expression. And why would you try to supress that right?!
4. Take a walk
Taking a “Passeggiata” is still the most popular past time of the Italian people. For the young and old it’s not just taking a walk, it’s more of a wander. A wander around the town to admire the architecture and to say hello to passing friends. A great form of exercise it can be done before dinner to build up an appetite or after dinner to digest and maybe get a “gelato” along the way. The “Passegiata” is done only for pleasure like most things in Italy but it has many health benefits from improving circulation to relaxation and reducing stress.
If somebody looks good Italians will tell them. It doesn’t even matter if you don’t really know the person. If the compliment is thought, it is said. Compliments flow all day for various reasons with “bello” and “bravo” being heard all over town. Compliments are really great for self-esteem and for feeling good about yourself too.
There seems to be endless health warnings about coffee but there is no prising Italians away from their coffee. Millions of Italians rely on a morning espresso to get started so perhaps it is something to do with the way it’s being drank? More recently coffee has been claimed to prevent depression. Because of the way it is made and its concentration, an espresso is thought to contain two to three times the number of healthy antioxidants of coffee made by other brewing methods. Outside of Italy we are pretty keen on coffee too, but 85% of the stuff we drink is instant, which is not only, arguably, disgusting, but contains few of the alleged health benefits associated with an Italian espresso. So there it is, Espresso is the answer!
7. Eat well
It will come as no surprise that eating is taken very seriously in Italy. It is at the very centre of Italian life. But what may not be so obvious is the importance of good quality food. Good food in the sense of healthy and wholesome food. Food in Italy is very closely monitored by the government and the people alike. Expectations for food to be good quality and free from nasty additives and preservatives are high. Italians eat food for pleasure but they also understand nutrition. They are meticulous about food combinations and eating balanced meals. Meals are served in a series of smaller dishes with long waits in between courses. This prevents people getting overly full and helps to aid digestion. Fruit and vegetables are eaten when they are at their best and in season. And this way they are also at their most delicious.
8. Respect your health
Italians are known for being hypochondriacs. But what is more important than our health? They treat their bodies carefully and if they fall ill a good recovery is of upmost importance. You would never catch an Italian with a cold “Soldiering on”. They will be tucked up a home recovering with mamma’s homemade broth.
9. Get out of the house
Italians love their homes but they don’t spend much time in them. Traditionally Italian homes do not have sofas but large dining room tables instead. The evening is spent around the dinner table eating, chatting and being with your family. Then after dinner they go to bed or they go for a walk. There is no culture for sitting in front of the television.
10. Take it slow
Italians take the word “slow” to a whole new meaning but they don’t see it as slow. It’s more of a take it easy. They walk slowly taking in their surroundings wandering with no particular place to go and they started the Slow Food Movement. It can be difficult for people outside of Southern Europe to adapt to this new way of life but eventually you realize just how relaxing and carefree life is if you just slow down. The days are longer as they start earlier and finish later with a good “siesta” in the afternoon to recharge the batteries after a long lunch. Lunch can last for hours and this is a great way to de-stress and reconnect with your friends and family. The food is wholesome and a pleasure to eat, you know while you are eating that it is nourishing you. Not like grabbing a sandwich on the go! Life is so much better if you aren’t flying through it and you take the time to really breathe it in and enjoy it.