Dolce far niente, the sweetness of nothing. Many Americans first became aware of this life altering Italian way, thanks to Julia Roberts character in Eat, Pray, Love.
For those unfamiliar, a quick video clip of Eat, Pray, Love dolce far niente reference.
Similar to Julia Roberts character, my fate as a restless American writer was to fall in love with a man from another country. Paolo, an Italian artist and my Husband, has shown me the sweetness of nothing in life, and it is indeed a sweetness.
While strolling the Giudecca in Venice, Italy in 2014, I felt dolce far niente for the first time.
Paolo was photographing his way through the city for what would become Venice, a Liquid Adventure series in his “Still Movements” collection.
Content to stroll behind him, I slowly, realized, there was nothing we had to do. No place we had to be. We wore no watches and bore no plans when we headed out to explore Venice that day.
Paolo was taking his time, relaxing and letting Venice speak to him.
“To walk is to vegetate, to stroll is to live.” — Honoré de Balzac, Novelist & Playwright
Definition of Dolce Far Niente
Webster Definition: Dolce far niente: pleasant relaxation in carefree idleness.
Very true. Accurate. It makes sense but lacks the passionate appreciation of the meaning Italians have.
Webster literal translation: Italian, literally: sweet doing nothing
It’s rare but this time, the literal phrase is what captures the spirit of a translation.
I asked Paolo, his thoughts on dolce far niente.
“People need time to see beauty.” — Paolo Ferraris, Artist
Venice Inspired Art
For Italians dolce far niente is not a moment in life. It’s a way of life.
“Think of it this way. Italians get made fun of, for eating slow. A two-hour lunch, ridiculous! Americans are wondering where their check is while Italians are enjoying how our food tastes. ” — Paolo Ferraris, Artist
Thinking about it, I realized, the same is true for all things in life. Art, food, music, photographing Venice. To see the true beauty in anything takes time.
“Venice has always been associated with a bit of melancholy for Italians. It’s a dying city.”
Venice once the floating city is now known as the sinking city.
“Remember, how quiet it was while we were exploring Venice? There are no cars allowed. The streets are silent. Walking is silent. Away from the crowds you hear only your steps. You slow down. Without distraction, you can notice the patina, the passing time.” — Paolo Ferraris, Artist
Even though Venice is a manicured city, you see the cracks, the water taking over. Venice, is a dying city and yet it’s beautiful.
As Americans we are at a disadvantage. We have not been raised to slow down, relax and enjoy. We have been raised to work hard. To earn our worth. Artists who focus on their craft struggle valiantly to do so.
What if we valued dolce far niente too?
The sweetness of nothing. Time to be idle. Time to notice and reflect on the beauty in life. Time to create.
#NeverGiveUp #LiveWithPassion #ArtworkMonday #ALOR
Following Artwork Monday
Each Monday ALOR reflects back on travel using Art and Photography created by Paolo Ferraris. We hope you’ll join us for short inspiring stories from around the world each week on ALOR.blog, Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.