Buona Notte (Goodnight) During the Day….The Italian Siesta Phenomenon

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One thing is more apparent in smaller villages than large cities, and that is the natural rhythms of the traditional culture. While in larger cities life and amenities have been adapted to accommodate tourists, the same cannot be said of the villages.

We’ve been in small villages in northern Italy for over a week now, and we’ve had to acclimate to the local eating habits, time-wise. First of all, it doesn’t seem like the Italians eat super huge breakfasts, though there seems to be a lot of espresso drinking in the mornings, or milky lattes or cappuccinos. An espresso and a pastry seems somewhat standard.

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Lunch is on the earlier side. I see people starting to eat lunch as early as 11:30, and by noon it seems to be in the primo swing. At some restaurants they have antipasti buffets with olives, some veggies, and a variety of cheese and meat cuts. There is definitely a lot of cheese and meat involved!  There was a project here, and every day at the location the catering even had enormous mounds of full parmesan and mozzarella cheese for everyone to slice off from. When I say enormous (I wish I took a pic), the parmesan mound was as wide as me stretching my arms out in a circle.

 

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Then siesta comes from 1-3! The first day I went exploring in Courmeyer, I wondered why all the shops were closed in the early afternoon, and then the siesta was explained to me by one of the locals. I knew about it but I totally forgot. In these small villages that we visited (some consisting of only a few blocks of a town center), the siesta break was pretty ubiquitous. The town would shut down, and everyone would go nap for a few hours. If you had to work, as on the project that we were on (which was American not Italian), and you had to push through the afternoon after eating that heavy meat and cheese-filled lunch, that is when you saw the espresso machine getting major action.  It always had a string of people in line. I asked one Italian guy on our project how many espresso shots he had in the afternoon, and he said he lost count, but perhaps over 8 (!).

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When you eat a super heavy lunch, you cannot help but feel tired, as so much of your energy is going to your digestion. In contrast, I ate big lunches, fiber-wise, but lighter and far easier to digest- huge plates of salad, a few olives, mushrooms, lots of cooked veggies and veggie soups, and I never got tired in the afternoon. And I certainly don’t drink any espresso!

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Because of the heavy lunch and siesta, everything in the afternoon and evening gets pushed back later, and most restaurants (including in our hotel), do not even open until 7:30 or 8 pm.  So that means by the time you order and get your food it’s at least 8 pm, which doesn’t work for me because I get hungry way before that (even if I have a snack in the afternoon). A lot of people are eating dinner here at 9:30 at night or even later! I discovered this the first time I bounded down to the hotel restaurant, dressed and ready for dinner at 6. I don’t like eating dinner super late.

But no buona! Not open. I started buying a bunch of salad stuff, olives, local mushrooms, etc. at the local markets, and keeping them in my hotel fridge so I could eat earlier, and at dinner I would only order a veggie soup with John and our friends here to be social, but not so much that I felt overloaded going to bed.

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We’re having a Vitamix at other locations during the journey, but I have missed it here this week, and I have missed my GGS immensely. Looking back, I see I could have traveled with a Nutribullet, but it is only a week and a half or so before getting a full Vitamix, so I decided not to. But maybe I should have!

I love the Italian people and culture, and they are a moderate people that don’t eat gigantic portion sizes. Still, it is very interesting to observe the patterns of consuming heavier digesting foods and siestas/naps and caffeine consumption.  Though smoothies are not a big part of the traditional culture here, I think some of the (open-minded) Italians would love the GGS too, as we do! Don’t you think?

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I’ll be writing more from the road soon.

Hope you are well and having a wonderful spring so far!

Love,

Kimberly

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15 Responses to “Buona Notte (Goodnight) During the Day….The Italian Siesta Phenomenon

  1. las fotografías están increíbles…. los pueblos pequeños son lo mejor para relajarse y disfrutar la gastronomía, mas si cuentan con pequeñas ferias .

  2. Sounds like in Spain. Eating so late sure took some getting used to. One night out, we were served dinner at midnight! And the restaurant was full with other people eating their dinner this late! The pictures of northern Italy are beautiful!

  3. Hi Kimberly,
    I found your blog very refreshing and it brought back lots of memories. I am Italian and live now in England. My whole family still lives in a small village (Vigo di Fassa) in North Italy. Everything you describe is true: people eat heavy meals late into the evenings, have afternoon naps and drink plenty of espressos. The world has this opinion of my natal country as the best for food, lifestyle, harmony etc. In reality, people are no different to any other country but very ofter they are convinced they are. Does this make any sense?Everytime I go back to visit my family I find very difficult to adjust to their way of living again. But what surprises me the most is that, although many people suffer with hypertention, stress, digestive and health problems, the majority of Italians don’t want to change their habits. They are very traditionalist and don’t accept any advice from outside their close family. I am a medical beauty aesthetician and keep on telling my sisters and friends about the importance of using a high SPF on a daily basis and the avoidance of sunbathing in strong sun. Any results? Not so far. As a passionate professional like you are, I get really upset but at the end I give up.
    Please keep on writing about your Italian experience. I totally sympathise with you.
    A big hug, Barbara

  4. Dear Kimberly, it’s so funny to read your description of italy! But you just visited Valle d’Aosta, one of the 20 region of the bel paese! Every region is different in habits, language – difference accents or dialects – and food!!! I hope you’ll come back and visit more areas ^_^
    xo

  5. I am so glad you are writing about Mediterranean way of eating and lifestyle. I am Mediterranean myself and although I eat gluten and dairy free, you can see how much moderation there should be to our cuisine to attain GF/DF lifestyle.
    I have a question and always wondered on your take on bread and pasta eating in Italy. Women are in great shape, you rarely see ladies sporting cellulite in their thighs, longevity is never an issue in the Mediterranean region. How do you explain this relating to you GF/DF and Vegan lifestyle that you suggest??

  6. Hello Kimberly! In small villages people go home to have lunch and stay with the family watching the news while they are eating. Not everyone sleeps! It’s a “siesta” with the meaning of a “break”.
    I’m Italian and I drink GGS every day thanks to your book! I live in Milan and here nobody sleeps after lunch! They run all day. :-/
    Have a nice stay in Italy!
    (best food is in the south of Italy)

  7. You should get a NutriBullet for travel. I have a tiny kitchen and it is the best kitchen investment I have ever made! You will not regret it!

    Thank you for all the good work that you do!!!

  8. Unfortunately our weak link is obesity among children. It makes no surprise spotting photos of non-agonistic swimming team in which half of the guys are overweight.
    Wish you the best for your journey and hope you’ll consider our bella Italian in case of a Kimberly Snyder re-educational food plan

  9. Hi Kimberly, I’m keeping up with your journey throughout my country with so much interest.
    I have a few comments if possible. Here in Italy eating habits are evolving a lot from what you are experimenting in the very North. Breakfasts are more than just a coffee and a pastry, especially when had at home. We are giving a great importance to fresh fruits, multi grains and oatmeal especially if we consider the section of female population in it’s 30′s, living between Lombardy and central Italy, where the weather is not to harsh and light meals are very appreciated. Here the lifestyle is def more hectic, in big cities you don’t see a proper ‘siesta’, shops and banks don’t shut down for lunch break and they try to extend their opening time. Considering lunch, salads and healthy meals win over heavy and rich dishes in particular if we talk about cities with a very active lifestyle, and basically lunch break is between 12.30 and 2pm. Btw you are right when saying that meat and cheese are a staple in our diet, but I think that your eating plan could set easily in a place where prevention, life quality and well being is way more important than just filling ourselves up with pasta and pizza.

  10. Oh and I forgot to mention that eating out-of-season fruit in the morning simply doesn’t agree with me or my body… :)

  11. This is really interesting! I was just wondering, though, what do you eat for breakfast when you can’t have your green smoothie? I always struggle with this particular issue, especially when traveling or when it’s too cold to have a smoothie. I often do soup such as miso or any veggie in season as I’m not a fan of oatmeal (be it raw or cooked). I find any grain in the morning too heavy for me (the only exception being toasted bread – artisan, sourdough, or sprouted). So, yeah, I’d love to know!

  12. What a great insight into Itaily. So neat that you are sharing your travel discoveries. I love how you still incorperate a healthy diet into your traveling adventure! I am living vicariously through you right now with the beautiful pictures. I wish you and your husband many blessings. Thank you for sharing.

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