“Dolce Far Niente” Is the Sweet Italian Method I’m Using to Decorate This Summer

published Jun 20, 2024
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image

Recently, I took a trip with a friend to upstate New York to go to an interior designer’s tag sale. Shopping-wise, the sale itself was kind of a bust, but we made the best of the day by exploring one of the many towns along the Hudson River. Along the town’s Main Street, we came upon Lucestella Studio, a shop specializing in curated finds from Italy and handmade leather sandals. This store was a treasure trove of gifts for people who love interior design and Italian fashion.

There, a cluster of porcelain plates caught my eye. Each plate featured a pretty decorative border, shiny gold flourishes, and a short Italian saying on it. The shop owner came over and translated them for us. As cute as the “ciao amore” and “‘o sole mio” designs were, the plate that resonated with me most had “dolce far niente” on it. After becoming acquainted with this phrase-meets-philosophy that afternoon, I’m now adopting this Italian way of life at least for the summer and maybe beyond. 

What Is Dolce Far Niente?

The shop owner explained “dolce far niente” or “il dolce far niente” both essentially translate to “the sweetness of doing nothing” and embody the Italian philosophy of savoring the simple things in life. This practice felt like something I could get behind, particularly for summer (think: spending time unplugged and just being alone with your thoughts, not rushing to do the dishes right away after a great meal, hanging out on a park bench without a purpose). It’s the art of idleness or the sport of leisure, and it sounds absolutely amazing — even to me, as a to-do list devotee. Sometimes over-scheduling takes away those chance moments for discovery, and it’s important to remember rest can take many forms and can be crucial for self-care.  

Why I’m Adopting This Italian Philosophy

Like many people (and Americans, especially), I’m definitely one for getting caught up in the hustle and bustle of everyday life and planning things maybe a little too excessively. So, to offset that, I’m into the idea of slowing down and taking stock of the simple things at least once a day — whether it’s at the start of a morning, during a quick screen break at work, or after dinner before bed. There’s something about the long, hot days of summer, too, that make you want to stop and smell the flowers, quite literally. And sometimes it’s those quiet moments that turn out to be our most joyful and inspiring. So that’s why I’m planning on doing more of less. 

Credit: Danielle Blundell

How to Incorporate Dolce Far Niente into Your Home

Although “dolce far niente” is more of a way of living or a frame of mind, certain home features can encourage that sweet idleness I’m after. So if this idea intrigues you, I’d first suggest carving out a quiet corner, which should include comfy seating like an accent chair or sofa. You don’t need a window, but one could be good nearby for just staring out of it aimlessly. Or maybe you can hang a piece of artwork that you love to look at there and just meditate on that. I also think having some kind of a bench or seat in whatever outdoor space you might have would be equally useful for doing the same thing, just outside. 

Italians are known for their love of many things, including espresso, so don’t rush your morning coffee if you can help it. Make it feel more ritualistic and decadent by building out a coffee corner or coffee cart in your kitchen. You can do the same thing with your cocktail of choice. Don’t rush to clear the table after a meal; linger a bit and savor the experience and conversation, if you’re dining with others.

Finally, maybe think about including some kind of a visual reminder to practice “dolce far niente.” Maybe passing by your easy chair or the bench in your backyard is enough, but I bought the “dolce far niente” plate. For one, plate walls are definitely back in style, and I’ve been collecting dishes with the hopes of installing an arrangement in my dining room. Second, you can do a lot with a tiny plate beyond just serving on it, from designating it as a catchall for jewelry to using one as a soap dish. So this item can have many lives in my home. Most importantly, the plate’s message struck a chord with me. Every time I see it, I hope it encourages me to take a beat for just being.