I'm one of the people fortunate enough to visit Italy every few years or so. We have family there that we visit and I always learned something new each time I went. Here are a few of the more important lessons that I learned from Italians.

1. Vai piano (Take it easy)

Photo by Oscar Masciandaro

Italy is always so relaxed. In my hometown and New York, everyone's in a rush and impatient, even me. We speed past people who we think are walking too slow and get impatient when someone or something isn't on time. But if you go to a small town in Italy, everyone and everything runs on a slower clock. People take leisurely walks all the time, punctuated with scalding cups of espresso, impossibly delicious cups of gelato and somehow manage to run into friends and family that lead to more adventures. Being in Italy always slows me down. I take long, slow strides and really take in my surroundings instead of just whisking past people to get where I want to be.

2. Vivi la vita bella (Live the beautiful life)

Photo by Oscar Masciandaro

There's an expression that's always used, "la vita bella." The literal translation is "the beautiful life," but people use it to mean "the good life." To me, this expression embodies Italian lifestyle. They live the beautiful life, complete with delicious food, amazing wine, loving friends and family and a laid-back lifestyle.

It's completely different from the American way which, to me, is really centered on making money and displaying one's wealth. By not focusing on money and the superficial, one can start to appreciate other things in their lives like the clouds in the sky or the ground beneath their feet, the things that make life beautiful.

3. Sonnellini sono una necessita (Naps are a necessity)

Photo by Oscar Masciandaro

I think one of the best things about Southern Italy is the naps. It gives the students and workers a break mid-day so they can recharge and be ready to get back to work later on. It also allows them to stay up really late to party or hang out (which they always do without fail). Whenever I take a nap, I instantly feel better and I can get my work done without falling asleep. In Italy, everything shuts down during the nap so really your only options are to just sit and wait for things to open back up or take a nap too.

I remember the first time I went to Italy, I didn't take any naps because I thought it was ridiculous. But the next time I went, I immediately dropped my American ways and saw the value of naps in the middle of the day, especially because it was so hot and I would melt in the heat.

4. Cibo e' un'arte (Food is an art)

Photo by Oscar Masciandaro

Everyone knows that Italian food is amazing, but homemade Italian food is the closest someone can get to heaven on Earth. I learned that food is an art from making tomato sauce in my uncle's backyard and watching my family cook. When we make tomato sauce, I can see how much effort is put into making the perfect product. We have to chop up the tomatoes, cook them, put them into the machines multiple times and then can them (not necessarily in that order). It's labor intensive and definitely worth it. Watching all my family members cook is like watching artists at work. They really do pour their heart and soul into their food and that's what makes it good.

Every time my dad cooks, he never makes dishes exactly the same way twice. He'll take a recipe that we like and change it a bit. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, but he learns from it and then applies his new knowledge for the next time. When we're in Italy, it's incredible to see what my family can make in their kitchens. Platters and platters of food come streaming out and each bite is savored, never eaten.

5. Famiglia e' tutto (Family is everything)

Photo by Oscar Masciandaro

Family is everything in Italy. Most of the businesses in small towns are family-run and people use family ties to their advantage to network or get jobs. Families there stick together, whether that be through living in the same town or building, or just seeing each other on special occasions. Having an extended family there not only allows you a large network of support but also more places that you can call home because home is where your family is.

6. Amici sono famiglia (Friends are family)

Photo by Risa Vergara

Something else that I learned from my relatives more so in the U.S. is that friends are family. At large family events like Christmas or Thanksgiving, there are always people who aren't related to us. Sometimes they're lifelong friends or people that we've only known for a month or two; Whoever they are, they're always welcome to eat with us and celebrate.

7. Vivi con passion (Live with passion)

Photo by Oscar Masciandaro

Everything Italians do is filled with passion. It's shown in their words, their actions and everything that they do. When they talk, it sounds like they're arguing, but in reality, they're just talking about something like what they did that day or the weather. When they speak, they firmly believe in what they say and the things that they do are things that they love. You can hear it in their voices when they crescendo and decrescendo how passionate they are about the subject. Talking to them and being around them always makes me want to find things that I am passionate about.