What the Italians can teach us about living well

After visiting friends in Bologna, I came away with a sense that the Italians have embraced many things that we North Americans would do well to adopt.

This past week, I had the tremendous fortune to spend three days in Bologna, Italy. I went to visit my friend Francesca, whom I met while on a year-long exchange to Sardinia when I was 16. We've kept in touch over the years, but this was my first time visiting her in Bologna. I was eager to see the city for a few reasons. My colleague Lloyd had raved about its famous covered sidewalks (I had no idea what he was talking about before I went, but quickly caught on). I also knew that Bologna is famous for its food, located in the state of Emilia-Romagna, home to rag├╣, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, tortellini, the prized balsamic vinegar of Modena, and more. Finally, I was eager to get off the beaten track. Although Bologna is a major center, tourists tend to bypass it in favor of Rome, Florence, or Venice.

While traveling, I cannot help but compare everything I observe to my life back home in Canada; this is, arguably, the greatest benefit of travel -- that it forces us to see the world with new eyes -- and seeing Italy through the eyes of an adult, as opposed to the teenage exchange student I used to be, was particularly interesting. I spent hours discussing politics, the struggling economy, urban design, and food with my friends. They are smart, educated thinkers who are accustomed to hosting guests and engaging in debates. I came away from the trip feeling full of experiences, perspective, and interesting facts. But along with that came a sense that, even if the political and economic situation is less than ideal right now, the Italians have figured out many other things that would benefit us North Americas greatly if we could only adopt them....more