Barbara Conelli, authorIl Bel Paese – The Beautiful Country. Italians don’t doubt that their country is truly special, and just one short trip to Italy will convince you that you could spend the rest of your life in any of the villages or cities, enjoying your Dolce Vita, eating ice cream on the piazza, kissing in the streets and dancing through worries.

Although Italians are curious adventurers and travelers, I believe they could happily stay in their country without ever exploring any other place in the world. Italyhas the highest mountaintops of theAlps, over 5300 miles of Mediterranean coast, and hosts sixty percent of UNESCO world heritage. You won’t find a country with a better cuisine, stronger sense of community and more intense joy of life. You won’t find a country with a longer creative history, more handsome men and sexier love songs.

No matter where in Italy you happen to find yourself, you can be sure to find the same, very Italian rituals everywhere you go. After years spent in Italy with family and friends, and after very thorough lessons on the Art of Dolce Vita from my Milanese Grandma Lily, I take these little rituals with me everywhere I go, always trying to keep their spirit alive in my heart.

Cinque Terre, ItalyItalian mornings begin quietly. Lazy cafés are starting to open, old gentlemen accompanied by little dogs walk to the newsstand and back, housewives run to bakeries to get fresh bread and sweet treats for breakfast. The city is slowly waking up, and so is the noise. Cars, scooters and the usual morning rush soon fill the streets and the bustle is deafening. Bars and cafés are filled with people who hurry to drink their morning cup of coffee before heading for the office. However, the first hour of the morning with its peaceful rhythm and smell of strong espresso is priceless. Just hold the little warm cup in your hands, savor its smell and flavor, and watch the new day unfold in front of your eyes.

At about five, Italians start leaving offices and gathering for aperitivo – a pre-dinner drink that gives people the opportunity to relax and socialize. Italian aperitivo is more than a tradition, it’s a ritual and a habit that Italians couldn’t live without. It’s easy-going, full of chatter, laughter and gossip. Gather your friends, sit down at your favorite outdoor café, order a Campari cocktail and soak in the lively atmosphere.

Milan, ItalyItalian nights belong to the piazza – the main square. It’s a place to see and be seen, without the necessity of setting up dates with anyone. Everybody’s here, and you can be

Chique Books by Barbara Conelli

sure that your friends will sooner or later show up. Men talk about politics and football, and admire the curves of female passers-by. Women flaunt their new shoes, dresses and haircuts. Teenagers joke around and don’t give a damn about anything. Lovers flirt, kiss and seduce. Kids and dogs run around freely until late hours of the night. Everybody drinks, eats and just lives.

The joys of the Italian Dolce Vita are simple, yet magically powerful. Although experiencing the Dolce Vita spirit is easier and more fun in Italy, who says you can’t have your own Dolce Vita back home? Invite friends, cook some pasta, open a bottle of Italian wine, and for a little while, just be.

Barbara Conelli is the author of Chique Books filled with Italian passion. Barbara’s new bestselling book “Chique Secrets of Dolce Vita,” subtitled “Put on your Borsalino and swing those hips, baby”, contains charming, poetic, delightful and humorous travel and life stories about extraordinary Milanese women, men who have succumbed to their temptation, and the art of living your own dolce vita no matter where in the world you are. For more information about the author and the book, please visit http://www.barbaraconelli.com