3 Mindset Tips To Help You Enjoy Italy To The Fullest

These reminders will help you embrace la dolce vita during your trip.
A woman in a black dress standing next to a pool overlooking the Italian countryside on a sunny day.
Castello di Vicarello, Tuscany @Instagram/victorsfitz

Planning a trip involves much more than just crafting your itinerary, booking your stay and dining experiences, and managing logistics. An equally important aspect of ensuring a successful journey is adopting the right mindset for travel. Everything we perceive about the world begins in our mind, and having a flexible outlook can enhance our resilience in unfamiliar settings or when facing unexpected challenges — situations that often arise when we’re exploring new places.

Many would agree that Italy is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Whether you plan on exploring the museums of Rome, enjoying mountain air in the Italian Alps, or taking a road trip through Puglia, the Italian lifestyle is sure to steal your heart. But like every country, Italy has cultural norms that shape its identity. As such, these may be different than what you’re used to. To help you enjoy Italy to the fullest, you can implement a few simple, neuroscience-based techniques to prepare your mindset for an unforgettable trip in Italy.

1. Take some time to slow down, even if you want to make the most of your trip.

When you’re visiting another country, it is natural to think you should visit as many things as possible. Especially if you’re coming from another part of the world. Doing so might leave you with some sense of achievement. However, the quality of your trip is determined by how you feel during the experience, not by the number of attractions you check off your list.

If you create a long “to-do list” for each day of your trip, your brain will treat your vacation like a work project. This mindset might shift you into a high-pressure “achievement” mode when you’re pressured by deadlines. What should be an exciting and relaxing trip to Italy may paradoxically leave you feeling as though you’ve never stepped away from your desk.

A small table with two chairs on a balcony overlooking the sea in Sicily.
Alicudi, Sicily @Instagram/walking_eolieandsicily

Rather than making a long list of things you need to see, make your list selective, and reserve some time for Il Dolce Far Niente — the sweetness of doing nothing. Wherever you are in Italy, order a delicious drink at a local coffee shop, and put your phone away. Just sit and be present with where you are; observe those around you, look at their smiles. Notice how life feels right now in this moment, notice what makes this place special. Give yourself time and space to appreciate where you are and to appreciate yourself for coming to a place as beautiful as Italy. This will send your brain a message that says “it is time to rest and enjoy.” This will allow you to open up and fully experience “the Italian way.”

However, your brain might be resistant to “doing nothing” because this has a negative connotation in some cultures nowadays. Many of us have been programmed to reward productivity rather than slow living. The truth is, visiting as many tourist attractions as possible in a short period puts you in stress mode. This is exhausting to your body and mind. Embracing a more relaxed approach not only enhances your well-being but enriches your overall experience, leaving you feeling more content and joyful during your journey.

2. You have permission to skip the highlights and do what feels good to you.

Instead of feeling like you have to visit the Colosseum or make an exhausting journey squeezing in all the towns on the Amalfi Coast, choose what feels good to you at the moment. Whether that’s doing daily yoga in Florence, eating your way through pizzerias in Naples, or opting to visit Rome’s lesser-known museums instead of the Vatican. Take time to soak in Italy’s many thermal hot springs and leave enough time to enjoy day trips.

Although travel is full of logistical considerations, it should feel inspiring and joyful — not like another task you need to fulfill. By listening to your own needs and desires, you’re sending your brain a message that you are empowered to make your own decisions and exercise your freedom. Embracing this mindset encourages a shift in perspective and transforms every moment into an opportunity for authentic exploration and self-discovery. You’re also more likely to have a better time on your trip if you honor your natural rhythms and real desires rather than ticking off someone else’s checklist.

A woman laying on a boat in the ocean, reading a book.
Panarea ©Livia Hengel

3. Be prepared for some culture shock: it’s all part of the experience.

In Italy, things may work differently than what you’re used to in your home country. During any travel, being outside of your comfort zone can cause stress to your nervous system. Your brain likes what is familiar, because familiar is safe, while the unfamiliar is perceived as a potential threat. Humans have been programmed this way for millennia to help us survive. This means our brains still sound an alarm whenever we experience something unfamiliar. Travel can be stimulating and inspiring, but it can also be stressful because we aren’t sure how to process new experiences and whether they’re “safe” or not.

During your trip to Italy, any number of unexpected things could happen. Trains are often delayed and hotels often lack air-conditioning. Not to mention that Italians follow strict dining etiquette which may be different than at home. You may not be able to control your circumstances, but you can always control your reaction. Instead of letting negative feelings escalate and take away from your experience, take a moment to recognize when they occur. Remind yourself that everything is ok and this is part of embracing new experiences. Because a simple mindset shift can instantly transform your emotional state. It has the power to turn potential discomforts into opportunities for growth and enjoyment.

Rome ©Livia Hengel

More tips to make the most of your time in Italy

  1. Thank you, much needed article as Italy continues to be a favorite destination for many of my friends:) i will forward it to them

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