I Lived Like an Italian Girl for a Month: Here's How My Wellness Routine Changed

In the summer of 2007, I spent my evenings devouring the book that every other red-blooded American female was also reading: Eat, Pray, Love. Following Elizabeth Gilbert's exhilarating post-divorce adventures in Italy planted a tiny seed in my teenage brain that one day I too would go live in Milan or Rome or somewhere, eat all the pasta my belly could handle and then, I don't know, maybe fall in love with a cute Italian boy à la Paolo in The Lizzie McGuire Movie. I was 15 in 2007 when I was having those dreams: I was taking Italian classes at school, fell absolutely in love with the language, and fantasized about the day when I would make like a nomad and escape to the land of great wine, cheese, art, and desire.

However, in the 10 years that followed, my life took me in a direction that couldn't really accommodate dropping everything and moving to Italy. I entered a serious romantic relationship when I was 18, which led me to move to Los Angeles. I got a full-time job and two cats. I went vegan (not very pizza friendly). And for a long time, everything just seemed settled. Rigid. Secure. That stagnant attitude also fed into every corner of my lifestyle, from my exercise routine (Pilates two to three times a week) to my diet (strictly plant-based) to my general emotional state (content, but closed-off).

But then, in August of last year, everything turned upside down. It all started when I was given the opportunity of a lifetime to take six months off my job at Byrdie to write a book. Then, a few months after that, my boyfriend of over seven years and I parted ways. These two consecutive life events juxtaposed a skyscraping high with a fathomless low, but they had something important in common: They meant my life was now totally unencumbered. Without an office job or a relationship tying me to L.A., I could now go anywhere in the world I wanted. And the 15-year-old inside of me knew just where: Italia.

So I booked a ticket to Milan and an Airbnb in San Marino (a tiny, gorgeous microstate in north-central Italy with rolling green hills and a charming medieval town center) where I would be staying the whole month of January. I knew then, and I still very much appreciate now, that almost nobody gets the chance to drop their regular lives and go on an epic journey like that. So I resolved to make the most of it—to leave my repetitive lifestyle, orderly routines, and stiff disposition behind me and open myself up to adventure.

And you know what? Miraculously, I did. And by the time I got back from San Marino, I had gained a wealth of perspective of how I was taking care of my body and mind. As far as food, fitness, and mental health are concerned, Italy rubbed off on me big time. Here I'm sharing five of the priceless Italian wellness lessons I brought home to the States.