My husband and I went to Italy and Sicily for 2 weeks (I know…poor us!). While we were there, I found myself looking through a critical eye at some of the things they do that we don’t – but should.

First, the level of customer service was stellar. They know their economy depends on tourism. So that lesson was to go out of your way for the people who make your livelihood possible. A great example of that was in Palermo, Sicily.We took a horse and carriage ride around the city to see the highlights. Our driver, Andrea, clearly had an understanding about what experiences we are not accustomed to in most areas of the U.S. He stopped at an open air market which offered fresh fish, fruits and vegetables. We were clearly tourists among mostly locals. The experience of listening to the vendors call to the patrons, watching chefs select the freshest cuts of tuna, and smelling the most amazing lemons and oranges you’ve ever pressed to your nose was delightful. Andrea also stopped and purchased (from his own pocket) a potato dish that is specific to that region for us to try. He went out of his way to make sure we got the most out of the trip. Even better – he was delighted at the unexpected tip he received at the end.

Second, people in Italy take time to rest during the day.  They have a leisurely light lunch and many shops in the busiest areas are closed during that time.  The lesson here is that nothing is so important it can’t wait- even a sale. Taking time alone to read, with friends to relax and get caught up or to reconnect with a loved one is part of their daily lives. And guess who has fewer cardiac problems? Somehow we have elevated “the small stuff” to disproportionate levels of importance. Take a lesson from the Italians (pron. it-alians not I-talians) and take care of the important things in your life. The small stuff will take care of itself.

Finally, we found that, to these passionate people, nothing  is more important than family. Friends joined us for the second week of our trip. One day we hired a driver and interpreter to see if they could help our friends find any family members left in the small towns where their grandparents had come from before leaving for America. In the first town, we met two older men in front of a church. There was a lot of dialogue about the family and he wasn’t sure if there was anyone left. The man, Angelo, was so touched by our attempt at finding the family he told our friend that she was beautiful and has a beautiful soul. Our interpreter explained as we left town that he has family in America. In spite of his attempts to fund a trip back to Italy for them, they are not interested in returning. Long story short, we ended up going back to that little community at the end of the day to try and find the mausoleum where her family was buried. Amazingly enough, as we passed that same little church there was Angelo (now called Ami’s Angel)! We stopped again and found out that he had gone to great lengths to find a living family member. We met her, were invited in to her lovely home, had an espresso and cookies with her and she was able to bridge some gaps for our friend.

You don’t have to go on vacation to Italy to understand the meaning of these 3 lessons. If you have failed to express your appreciation to those who make your life easier, sweated the small stuff too much or have rifts within your family stop what you’re doing right now. Take a deep belly-breath. Take another. And another. Now listen to your heart and take action on what you hear.