finding "la dolce far niente" in greece


The sun began to set behind the hills of Santorini that evening as we made our way by ATV to Metaxi Mas, a restaurant that locals praise to no end. Just by the looks of the dining deck I knew that we had made the right decision: a woman, cupping her lover’s face in her hands, feeding him bites of her dish; a group of older Greek gentlemen, presumably on their third or fourth bottle of wine, laughing and chatting their way through a multi-course meal; a couple, gazing out over the horizon, content in their silence. And then us: two American girls weighed down by our heavy backpacks, ready to break away from the tourist traps of Oía and indulge in an authentic Greek dinner in the quiet escape of Exo Gonia.

We were instantly greeted with a plate of cheese, bread and olives, and a bottle of infamous Raki (Anthony Bourdain can speak to its potency). After a divine helping of pomegranate salad, I settled on smoked salmon linguine and my friend chose the risotto. We stuffed ourselves to the brim and still managed to find room for the complimentary dessert and a liter of wine.

We could have spent hours just sitting and watching the slow, captivating show that is Greek life. We mused over the things we loved about the Greeks and what we wanted to bring back to our American lives. We entertained thoughts of adopting siesta, of spending hours over well-intentioned meals, of indulging in device-free conversation and uninterrupted silence.

That meal marked us in ways I think we will spend years unraveling. There was a serendipitous air that met us in that place, and that’s something an itinerary can never plan for. 

And I think that’s what I love most about travel — its ability to interrupt my preconceived notions of the world, and to show me glimpses of the kind of person I want to be. I hope I am never confined by my own creature comforts—I seek to learn something new from every culture I encounter and adopt it in my own life. Greece can be characterized as an old soul, and that’s what I want for myself. To linger over the table, to cook with intention, to speak with passion, to ditch the device and just look up once in a while. 

There’s an Italian phrase I fell in love with years ago: la dolce far niente. The sweetness of doing nothing. Or as Merriam-Webster puts it, “pleasant relaxation in carefree idleness.” May we learn a thing or two from the Italians and the Greeks — that sometimes doing nothing is more than enough.