I have found that I am at my most productive in the afternoon. Mornings are typically occupied by breakfast, showering and getting ready, and making my plans for the day. The afternoon, however, holds the most potential for me to run errands and complete various tasks. In Italy, the afternoon is a time to relax and spend time with family. Most European nations eat their main meal at lunchtime, so schools and businesses set aside larger amounts of time for meals. Many small, local businesses will close up shop between the hours of one and four for “siesta.” I was warned about this before leaving for the trip, but I didn’t realize how much of an inconvenience it would pose until I encountered it firsthand. It would be about one or one thirty, just after lunch, and I would be ready to do some shopping or wander around Rome a bit. During my walk, I would come across a little shop that I wanted to visit but much to my dismay it would often be closed for siesta. It seemed that most of our free time in the city was during siesta time, so we couldn’t visit many of the shops on typical weekdays. That was definitely the most inconvenient part about my stay.
Although I continued to be irritated about the timing of siesta and the obstacles it posed for me, I began to wonder if Italy was on to something. Italians seem to be so much more relaxed than Americans. In the book Eat, Pray, Love an Italian friend of the author talked about this difference between Italians and Americans. He said that Americans work incredibly long, hard hours during the week and then just sit on the couch in their pajamas on weekends and feel guilty about taking a break. Italians know they are entitled to rest and take breaks without guilt. I saw this contrast in plain sight during my trip. Italians would be meeting up for coffee with friends or relaxing in a piazza during siesta and not seem to care if they were wasting “valuable time.” They also spend a lot more time with family, which is something we Americans could learn from. In my own life I see my extended family less and less as time goes on and it saddens me. Maybe things are like that in Italy too, but it seems to me that families have a stronger bond over there. Italians have a better grasp on what is truly important in life: keeping stress in check and spending time with those we love. Siesta may have been an inconvenience to me, but it taught me something valuable. Maybe the time I spend on trivial things could be redirected and used to enrich my relationships. Relationships are vital. When I am old I won’t cherish time spent on work but rather time spent with those I love.