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Cappuccino and company in Camogli (Italian Riviera).

Italy is NOT fattening!

The 5 reasons why

I just got back from a fabulous sixteen-day vacation in Northern Italy and Switzerland, visiting Italian friends in several different “resort” landscapes: lakes, mountains, sea.

After a shower, a little sleep, and some domestic activities, I got on the scale and saw that, lo and behold! I was solidly on the lower end of my weight scale. How could this be?

I mused about why Italy is not fattening. If you asked a native Italian, you might not get a list, but here are my five reasons (as an American-born Italian):

1.The food focuses on simplicity and use of genuine, characteristic, and available ingredients.

2.The wine is light, unadulterated, and easy to drink. Fruit is a symbol of culmination: the harvest; the meal; life itself. Siamo alla frutta: We’ve made it to the fruit.

Italian author Andrea De Carlo and musician/entrepreneur Bob Miller tasting the wine by the sea.

3. Eating is the most common form of socialization, and food is a “currency” of exchange in human transactions.

4. There is no guilt about, nor excess in, eating and drinking. You are with Italians, and so get a free pass to Epicurea.

Having lunch by the port after a boat ride and a swim in the sea.

5. The context is critical, whether with a breathtaking prospect or a homey grape-draped pergola. Gli occhi fanno la loro parte: The eyes play their role.

The complete picture that is painted every day reduces excessive eating habits due to the balance of all of the aesthetic factors and the resulting psychological healthiness. You relish the moment with all of your senses.

Italy’s landscape, the impossible density, the narrow winding roads, and guerilla parking habits all contribute to an intensity of engagement, pedestrianism, and the savoring of human exchange. It’s not fattening at all! But it isn’t just about walkability; it is the way people live.

You get savory treats with your aperitivo, then you stay for dinner.

As it turns out, contact with humanity is a good thing. So is a visual connection to the landscape. Design of the built environment needs to provide opportunities for contact and exchange, rather than speed and efficiency. Who wants to order their food through a microphone and eat in a car?

The view from Nico’s (Ruta).