Dolce far niente is an old Italian expression, made famous by the movie adaption of “Eat, Pray, Love”, which means “the sweetness of doing nothing”… Or “sweet F.A.” in, ah.. French!
I love this phrase. It rolls of the tongue with a pleasing smoothness and has an intonation that reminds me of swinging in a hammock.
And then of course there is the meaning… The sweetness of doing nothing. Isn’t it lovely.
This may be a romaticised notion, but from my anglicised viewpoint it seems that this is a wonderful (and enviable) cornerstone to the Italian culture. The sweetness of lolling about drinking great wine, sharing plate after plate of delicious food, while the table dances with passionate conversation. Then when everything is said and done comes the heart of dolce far niente… lazing about snoozing and digesting. You can’t help but smile to think of that. Yes, I am a wannabe Italian!!
Despite loving the sound, thought and meaning of this phrase I rarely do it… My days have a tendency to be go-go-go.
Today I was at a park with a friend and her children. My children were not with me this morning so I had some time to lie on my back and gaze adoringly up at the perfectly cloudless sky. It was a warm sunny day and I felt like a happy cat stretched out on a window sill. As I continued to gaze up at the blueness, a white balloon floated by and I thought… “Ahhhhhhh la dolce far niente”!
Such a completely divine moment. It was a lovely reminder to slow down, smell the roses and do…niente… nothing… sweetly!
Life creeps up and gets busy so easily. Making life busy is a synch. Slowing it down and making space for niente is the real skill… This is where true living starts. Making the space and time to just be, and to notice all the wonderful little things that occur in a moment like a white balloon floating by, the feel of sun on your shoulders, or a little baby foot tapping on your hand… My friend’s baby was sitting in the pram beside me and with my eyes closed I could feel her little foot, the length of my little finger, tapping the back of my hand.
I’m not religious but I can imagine how God felt on the seventh day, sitting back after a hard week of work… He would have been
thinking “Ah, la dolce far niente”!
Modern day animated philosophers Calvin & Hobbes are all over this idea. One of their many illuminating quotes is:
“weekends don’t count unless you spend them doing something completely pointless”.
It’s the pointlessness that makes it meaningful; it gets to the heart of dolce far niente… It is the process of being totally present. Being mindful and therefore truly living. Not being in the past, future or off with the pixies.
So today, lazing in the sun, looking up at the sky reminded me to slow down and stop trying so hard to have it all when I can always have the sweetness of nothing.
Well that’s about it from me, just a short but sweet little post about the delightfulness of doing nothing, give it a go…soon!
Here’s the scene from Eat, Pray, Love where Luca Spaghetti explains “La Dolce Far Niente”…
inspired by Matt Cutts on TED Talks.