Lessons of “Il Limone” (the lemon)

Inherent in the Italian philosophy of life, is an unmistakable acceptance of human difficulties, along with a firm conviction that no matter what befalls us, we will always get by. L’arte d’arrangiarsi is about knowing that you already have what it takes to turn  your life’s “lemons into Limoncello”. The “art” of getting by is about changing perspective. It is about reframing our problems, so that they are no longer “problems”, but rather challenges, that make us more creative, more resourceful, and even more spiritual as human beings.

One summer day I trudged up the steep winding road connecting Vettica Maggiore (the section of Praiano that embraces the gulf of Salerno) with its medieval counterpart on the mountain above.  As I struggled to continue forward under the sweltering heat of a glaring Italian noon sun, a little yellow blimp abruptly severed from its tree branch by the weight of its juices, and plunked itself right down at my feet.  Like everything else Italian, this proud limone amalfitano refused to be passed by without due admiration.  As I knelt to take a closer look, an inquisitive elderly gentleman came walking, almost floating towards me, with a cane hooked over his arm, apparently more for decoration than necessity.

“This lemon is much too beautiful to go to waste, isn’t it?” I remarked in Italian, just to make small talk.

The stranger cocked his head curiously.

Il li-mo-ne,” I enunciated, thinking he hadn’t heard.

Ho sentito, ho sentito,” I heard you, he replied.  “Ma scusa, perche’ dovra’ andare spreccato?”  But excuse me, why would it go to waste?

“Well, because it fell, of course” I declared; as if it were a universal truth that you shouldn’t eat fruit that has fallen to the ground.

Then, with a smile that made the Italian octogenarian seem boyishly chivalrous, he looked me straight in the eye and replied, “Per favore, please hand me that lemon.  I bring these home to my wife, who turns them into Limoncello!”

And there it was—an effortless solution to the fallen fruit predicament, in a land where dilemma for its own sake enjoys full-acceptance status.  To Italians, the severity of any problem –large or small–is determined by how one views it. To me the fallen lemon was sour; to the signore it was sweet, sweeter still for the challenge to turn it into something even better than it was before.

Luigi Pirandello’s classic play “Cosi’ e’ (se vi pare),It Is So if You Think It Is” —affirms that the conflict between perception and reality is simply the product of individual perspective and its subjective illusions.  The Italian perspective is that life should be satisfying, joyful, and passionate. Thus, the tendency to resolve problems creatively, and without belaboring them.

Just for today, try re-framing the problems that arise, seeing the sweetness in the challenge, and welcoming the confidence that comes with striving for  the dolce vita–the sweet life– that you deserve.


Want more self-help with the sweetness of Italy? If so, let me know what your greatest challenges are, and I will address them in this blog. Love to read your comments to my posts!  Mille grazie.


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