By Cassandra Santoro
La dolce vita (Italian pronunciation: [la ˈdoltʃe ˈviːta]; Italian for "the sweet life" or "the good life").
This is the actual definition of la dolce vita. My definition? Well, I think it is a dream, a hope, a fear, possibly an addiction, a longing. If you are anything like me, you may have become obsessed with the idea of this so called "sweet life." We see the idea of la dolce vita as the finish line, the point that we reach when all our dreams come true.
Since 2006, following my first trip to Italy I have lived with a photo (like the one above) on my desk, in my wallet, or on my wall. I earned for this. I earned for laughter, meals, family, true connection and true love. I wanted everything and everything in my life to be a deep authentic connection; I wanted a soul partner, to live in the perfect place, and to feel happy every day.
Personally, I imagined this being in Italy, as I believed Italians had the secret. I believed living and breathing the Tuscan air would be the answer to all my prayers!
Yes, I am Sicilian, but I truly thought my life would come together by actually being in Italy, surrounded by native Italians all day. I convinced myself that once I was living on a farm surrounded my lavender and wispy, I was fluent in Italian, once I learned to dress or cook like a true Italiana my life would be complete!
I believed the only way I could help others enjoy Italy was if I first was a perfect Italian!
So I made Italy my life and mission, I did everything possible to fulfill all these goals.
Then 8 years later, poof my fairy godnonna answered my prayers I finally was given the opportunity to start a travel business to Italy. This was it!! My prayers were being answered.
However, as reality started to creep in, I realized it was the contrary. The entrepreneur journey was actually very difficult and la dolce vita was actually further than it’s ever been before.
I was so shocked and taken back. I would often say to the universe, " Wait, did I miss something? Please, I don't understand, I now have my Italian passport, I have my career, I had an Italian fiance, I now have the tools to lead me to this beautiful life. I thought these blessings were my gateway to the sweet life dammit, what the heck happened?!"
Then recently, after I had a tough and hurtful conversation with a friend I discovered what I was missing. Although this talk was very sad, it forced me to sit down and reflect on many things in life, especially this obsession with Italy, being the number one travel planner, having the perfect life.
You see, I have already recreated the garden photo I spoke of before (several times actually, under the Tuscan, Sicilian, Pugliese and many other suns throughout Italy). I had Italian friends, Italian families that invited me to lunches, I was taught to cook gnocchi, caprese cake, how to roll my spaghetti. I could speak Italian, and I can even dress Italian (geez half my wardrobe is Ferragamo). I had all my prayers answered but still felt exactly the same as I felt before.
So what was the problem?
Well I will tell you, I allowed my obsession with la dolce vita, and my dreams to take over my life. While I think the travel business is my life purpose (or part of it) and I do LOVE my job, I allowed it to fully immerse my mind, body, and soul. I thought the only way I could help others was if I was perfect!
Instead of a cure, I allowed it to become an addiction (which we all know are unhealthy).
Instead of being fully present in these beautiful life-changing experiences, I became obsessed with trying to perfect these already amazing moments for myself and others.
I was so afraid of not being good enough for my clients, my vendors, my business partners, my family, and basically everyone else in my life, that I allowed it to get inside my head.
That is why I began to over work, obsess over minor things going on, take every single comment made by others into consideration and personally (please don't ever do that either by the way), and I was not even enjoying where I was at the moment.
The obsession with being the best at my job and enjoying the so called sweet life was making me sick and I knew I had to find a cure for this so called la dolce vita cure (I know it sounds crazy).
And yes of course, just like my past life break throughs, I realized the cure was within. I had to take back my power.
I had to appreciate what I had inside me before I can see the gifts outside of me. I had to know my worth before being worth anything to anyone else! I had to know I was great before anyone else could see the greatness within me. I had to start enjoying the beauty around me right now!
You see, you have to feel blessed before you are blessed.
La dolce vita is much more than a beautiful floral Tuscan garden lunch or breathtaking Mediterranean waters, it is a metaphor of what and how we see ourselves then we can see the beauty outside of us!
Anyone can take a picture but don't you want to enjoy that moment?!
Maybe if we get to the point of being fully present and in the moment of these memorable times, everything will be beautiful!! Can you imagine?
So I am sure you are asking why (yet again) I shared a very personal story with you today.
I shared this because I am tired of pretending that I am perfect. I know I am a public figure and a CEO of a company and of course, I am passionate about Italy, but that doesn't mean I am numb to feelings!
Just like the Italian experiences offered through Travel Italian Style, I think the best and most beautiful things in life are actually the authentic ones, the ones that come from a place of realness. The ones that touch you forever. How that moment makes you feel and how to keep that with you!
So now that I fully understand this, I am now on an even bigger mission to help not only myself but you as well!
My goal with Travel Italian Style is to not only send people on an experience of a lifetime but also to remind them to fully live and enjoy their vacation! I want you to join me on trying to complain less and enjoy more!
Of course you should continue to take in the amazing food, views, wine, etc. However, pay attention, are you are comparing your experience to others, maybe you saw a picture in a magazine, a TV show and you want your vacation to be just like that?
Are you stressing yourself out for the perfect la dolce vita?! Are you carrying around a picture of a garden of Italy too?! Yes, I believe in the power of visualization but do not allow it to take over life. Use this picture as motivation but not an obsession.
Basta (stop)! This is YOUR vacation, you are in the exact place, in the exact moment because you are meant to be there, so savor it!
Use this vacation to stop, relax, savor every moment, and to live your life the way YOU want it and I promise it will be amazing!
Of course I will continue to share amazing beautiful views of Italy with you on Instagram and I hope you keep following us to inspire your next trip.
Just know the person behind the camera is a real person, with real problems, and has a meaning behind that Instagram account and her business.
I am not in this for myself, I am in this for you and I really hope you join me! I am ready to fully enjoy life on my terms and I hope you are ready to do the same. You already have it in your heart so stop doubting and start living!
If you are looking to travel to Italy, please contact us, I promise to create you a beautiful life-changing travel itinerary that you will enjoy with no regrets. You can contact us here.
If you are not ready to travel but instead looking for some inspiration keep following along, I am ready to bring you on that journey even from the comfort of your own computer! :)
Meet the Author
Cassandra Santoro is the CEO and Founder of Travel Italian Style. As a personal trip planner Cassandra is an expert in Italian travel with a focus on authentic and inspiring experiences. She also leads motivational talks and can most recently be found at TEDxDHBWMannheim.