Ciao from Cortina: Italy taught me

Sophie Dingle/For the Steamboat Today

At 3 p.m. April 30, our plane from Venice touched down in Philadelphia, and suddenly, for the first time in eight months, we were back in the U.S. Obviously the first thing we did was turn on our cell phones. You may remember at the beginning of this season’s stint in Italy, we didn’t have the Internet for two and a half months, rendering me a blogger with no Internet, which is like a writer with no pen. But sometimes in Italy, I learned, you have to be patient.

Returning home is always an exciting adjustment. Everyone is excited to see us and everyone speaks English! There are 50,000 kinds of cereal to choose from and even more television channels. We can finally eat American breakfasts again, and even better, Creekside breakfasts, because we’ve been craving huevos rancheros for eight months.

Coming home can also be overwhelming. Everything is so big here. There are five lanes on the highway instead of two (and everyone is driving so slowly!). The wine is expensive, and the Parmesan cheese tastes off. Now that we have a reliable Internet connection, we get emails all day long.

We have to remember where the key to our storage unit is, sort through eight months of mail, line up our health insurance and adjust to our new lifestyle.

“How do you feel?” my husband asked me after we had been home for three days.

“Busy,” I answered.

In the three days, my to-do list had become six pages long.

Luckily, after living in Italy for the better part of four years, I’ve learned some things about being busy. Americans have an idea that Italians are very laid back; that wine is enjoyed with lunch, and then a nap follows and that the general outlook is that everything will probably get done in its own time.

This is mostly correct.

But it’s not that Italians aren’t busy — they are. They too have children to drop off at hockey, grocery store trips to make, businesses to run and elaborate lunches to cook. Somewhere in between all that though, Italians have figured out how to balance busy lives with aperitivo and Sunday lunches with family.

The most important thing that I learned from Italy was that it’s okay to slow down and take time to enjoy yourself, your family and friends and your life. You don’t always have to be so busy.

This summer in Steamboat, that’s a lesson that we’re going to try to remember. We’ll be taking time out from meetings and hockey camps and deadlines to go for bike rides, to sit by the river and to enjoy the company of family and friends who we don’t get to see very often.

If there is one thing that Italy taught me, it wasn’t how to speak fluent Italian or how to identify a good bottle of wine or how to get fresh pasta not to stick together: It was how to enjoy.

Sophie Dingle is a freelance writer living in Cortina, Italy, where her husband and Steamboat native, Ryan, plays professional ice hockey. While in Italy, she loves to eat, cook, explore and drink red wine. You can follow her adventures online at

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