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HEALTH

Seven very Italian ways to beat the January blues

Italians know that the simple pleasures can lift you up and carry you through the winter months. Here's how you can benefit, whether you're in Italy or not.

Seven very Italian ways to beat the January blues
Photo: Valerie Hache/AFP

Short days, grey skies and cold weather are enough to bring your mood down no matter where you are in the world – especially if you tend to be somewhat meteopatico.

And with coronavirus restrictions in place and travel still complicated, this time of year can be especially challenging for people living abroad and far from loved ones.

But embracing the Mediterranean way of life could help inject some joy into the dreary days of January. 

READ ALSO: Life in Italy: ‘Dante, bike rides and grappa keep the January blues at bay in Verona’

In Italy, simple pleasures are key, and this is thought to be behind the huge numbers of super-centenarians (people who live beyond 100) in the country. 

Here are a few suggestions that might help you beat the January blues – Italian style.

Take a passeggiata

There’s a lot to be said for snuggling up by the fireplace with a good book or film in winter. But many Italians will stress the importance of getting out and about and keeping active at this time of year – as long as you wrap up warm.

And the traditional stroll taken before or after dinner in Italy is a big happiness win.

As well as getting the blood flowing – and apparently aiding appetite or digestion – the passeggiata is a way to ‘see and be seen’ in your town’s picturesque centro storico (historic town centre) or on the lungomare (seafront).

Not only will the views, fresh air and movement cheer you up, but it’s usually a sociable affair – odds are that you’ll bump into a friend or get chatting to a neighbour along the way.

If you’d prefer some more rigorous (or solitary) exercise, it’s best to head to the local park for your walk or jog instead.

READ ALSO: 17 of the most beautiful parks and gardens to visit in Italy

An evening stroll along the Arno river near the Ponte Vecchio in downtown Florence. Photo: Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

Have an aperitivo with a friend

The aperitivo: one of Italy’s noblest traditions – and one which has been helping Italians beat the blues for over a hundred years. Bars across the country fill up between 6pm and 9pm (the start time gets later the further south you go) as friends head out for something to drink and a bite to eat.

If you’re outside Italy, make a date with a friend to catch up over drinks and nibbles, or perhaps you could hold your own Italian-style aperitivo hour (Covid restrictions permitting).

Numerous studies have shown that the key component of happiness is strong social relationships, while enjoying alcohol and snacks in moderation means you won’t feel any guilt for over-indulging.

Take in a museum or cultural site

Italy has a lot of art, a lot of history and a huge number of cultural sites, including a whopping 58 Unesco world heritage sites that you have probably never heard of, let alone visited. Each year record numbers visit the country’s monuments, perhaps down to the the powerful effect these sites can have on our wellbeing.

Museums and art galleries help stop you dwelling on your own problems and provide you with new experiences, new points of view and fresh inspiration – all of which will make you happier. You just need make the time to visit them.

Eat a pizza

Money can’t buy you happiness – but for a few euros in Italy you can get an excellent pizza. There is a definite connection between food and happiness, and with its hot, crispy base and melted cheese topping, pizza is the perfect comfort food. 

If you’re on a January diet, you may not even need to indulge in order to feel the positive effects of pizza. A 2013 study claimed that the idea of pizza and happiness were so closely connected that even the act of drawing a picture of a pizza made people feel better about life. It might be worth a try.

Reading these curious facts about pizza might also make you smile.

Photo: Nik Owens on Unsplash

Cook something simple

You don’t have to eat out to eat happily. If cooking feels like a chore, perhaps you just need some Italian inspiration: Italian food is delicious and for the most part, simple to make.

With the right recipe, anyone can rustle up an authentic-tasting dish of spaghetti alla carbonara or cacio e pepe – and they will be happier for it too.

READ ALSO:

Cooking is known to be therapeutic, as it focuses our attention on the task at hand and gives us a sense of achievement, even if it sometimes feels like a chore before you begin.

You may not be surprised to hear that readers told us preparing simple Italian dishes at home helped lift their mood during Italy’s coronavirus lockdowns.

Plan your next Italian getaway

Thinking of a trip to or within Italy this year? January is the time to plan, and we have plenty of suggestions. Though there’s still some uncertainty around coronavirus restrictions, things are looking more hopeful in 2022. And planning holidays gives you a sense of purpose and something to look forward to.

In fact researchers from Holland who studied the effect of holidays on reported levels of happiness showed that people reported a greater improvement in their happiness levels when they were preparing their trip than while they were actually basking in the sun.

Warm up with a caffè corretto

A good Italian coffee will always lift the spirits, but the colder months call for an added boost. That’s where the tradition of “correcting” your coffee comes in.

A caffè corretto is simply an espresso with the addition of a splash of warming grappa, or perhaps sambuca, which can be served on the side if you prefer (this is also known as an ammazzacaffè). Warning: this is supposed to be more a post-lunch or dinner tradition than a mid-morning ritual.

READ ALSO: Where, when and how to drink coffee like an Italian

What are your favourite ways to warm up and keep the winter blues at bay in Italy? Leave a comment below to let us know.

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HEALTH

Covid-19: Average life expectancy in Italy dropped by 1.2 years in 2020

Coronavirus cut average life expectancy in Italy by 1.2 years in 2020, and by more than four years in parts of the country hit hardest by the pandemic, official statistics showed on Monday.

Covid-19: Average life expectancy in Italy dropped by 1.2 years in 2020
A cemetery in Bergamo, one of the parts of Italy which has suffered the highest death toll during the coronavirus crisis. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

Life expectancy at birth last year stood at 82 years, compared to 83.2 years in 2019, the Istat national statistics office said in a new release.

“In 2020, the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting sharp increase in mortality abruptly interrupted the growth in life expectancy at birth that had characterised the trend until 2019,” it said in a statement.

For many years Italy has boasted one of the longest life expectancies in Europe. But with the spread of the coronavirus, its ageing population was especially vulnerable to falling sick.

Italy has recorded close to 130,000 deaths from Covid-19 in total, which have mainly been among the elderly.

READ ALSO: 

The drop in life expectancy was even steeper in some regions such as the northern provinces of Bergamo and Cremona, the epicentre of the Covid-19 outbreak in early 2020.

Men lost on average 4.3 and 4.5 years while women lost 3.2 years and 2.9 years in these areas.

More than 129,500 people with coronavirus have died in Italy, the majority in the northern regions where 36 percent of the population lives.

According to Istat, the pandemic has wiped out many of the gains made year-on-year since 2010, when Italy’s average life expectancy was 81.7.

Italy was the first European country to face a major outbreak of Covid-19 and for a time the region of Lombardy, the nation’s economic heart, became the epicentre of the global pandemic.

Quality of life has also been impacted in Italy, particulary due to the economic repercussions of the crisis.

The government has since rolled out a vaccination programme that, as of Monday evening, had almost 72 percent of the population over 12 fully immunised.

Italy has set a target of vaccinating at least 80 percent of the population by the end of September.

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