Buono!  A postcard from Italy, and some tips about how to live "la dolce vita," the sweet life, right here at home!

Being in Italy has been an amazing adventure. It's one of those places that makes you wish you could never leave. However, there are certain things about this country I love and think I can keep with me even after I'm gone. The best parts of Italy aren’t merely the most visually evident, such as beautiful art galleries or tiny cars. But there are certain cultural differences in Italy that are awesome, and that I think more Americans should try.

Eating local: In America, the average distance food travels from farm to plate is about 1400 miles. In Italy, it's only 27! What's amazing about this is not only that ingredients in Italy are usually fresh and seasonal, but also that you get to interact with the actual people who grow and make your food. In Florence, I loved going to the market. I bought my cheese, my cherries, and my salami all from different vendors. There was something immensely comforting about having my meat cut off a huge slab by a smiling butcher who seemed proud of his work, instead of buying it in a plastic container. Not to mention the fact that it supports local economy and reduces emissions caused by freighting food cargo by train, plane, or automobile. When I return to the States, I can’t wait to make more of an effort to go to farmers’ markets and to get to know the people there as well.

Eating gelato every day: Ok so maybe Italians don't eat gelato every day, but they do it often. While back in America I find myself easily scarfing down an entire pint of ice cream, a small fourth-cup serving of gelato is all I need. The reason? Gelato is actually not simply the Italian word for ice cream: they are very different products. Gelato consists of more milk than cream, and consequently it has a significantly smaller amount of fat in it. This means not only that it's marginally healthier than ice cream, but, more importantly, the flavors in gelato are more intense and hit your taste buds faster. This flavor intensity is reinforced by the fact that while American ice cream has a ton of air added to it during the churning process, the only air in gelato comes in naturally. In America, many ice cream shops and grocery stores have gelato options I can try, and if all else fails I can look for some authentic recipes that will help satisfy my craving.

Biking: In Italy, it seems as though there are as many bikes as there are cars. And while in America it’s usually children out for a joyride or people out to exercise, bikes in Italy are ridden by everybody from businessmen in suits to mothers going to the supermarket with their children onboard. Biking may seem inconvenient for such lifestyles, but Italians have mastered the art of multitasking on bicycles: I've seen them talk on the phone, put on make-up, and, of course, eat gelato, all on two wheels. I guess practice makes perfect! And it’s definitely worth practicing, for convenience, health, and the environment. When I’m home, I’ll get out my rusty old bike from the garage and start practicing myself.

Slow down!: My first few times at restaurants in Italy, I noticed something peculiar. I would get my food and eat it at what I perceived to be a normal pace. But then I'd look around at other tables and notice that patrons who'd arrived before me weren't even halfway done. Here's why: in Italy, food is an event. Italians enjoy food, yes, but they also enjoy making it social. Both food and company are savored, making meals long, luxurious affairs. And this is great! It’s too easy to get caught up in our day-to-day tasks. Meals are a great opportunity to enjoy catching up with friends and family. So when I get home, I too plan to have more dinner parties and to appreciate every bite.

I feel that if I keep these habits with me, I'll be able to live Italy's famous "Dolce Vita" anywhere in the world. Because, really, geography is irrelevant to enjoying life Italian-style.