25 Nov La vita è hyggelig
If you had to come up with a list of similarities between Italy and Scandinavia, after ‘there’s IKEA’, you probably wouldn’t be able to manage many.
When you think about the Danish concept of Hygge (pronounced hoo-gah, or so I’m told) Italy’s blaring car horns, long working hours, cold stone floors, and roasting hot summers are definitely not the first things that spring to mind.
But you might be surprised to find that Italy can be much more hyggelig than you might expect.
Far from being just an excuse to scatter candles all over your apartment and snuggle on the sofa all weekend, hygge is actually a much wider philosophy: it’s about a fuzzy feeling of cosiness as a whole. Sure, that might start with buying a fluffy new sheepskin rug for your apartment, but it extends to warmth in your human relationships, making time to share delicious food with loved ones, and living in the moment. It’s about experiences, not things (well, unless you count cinnamon rolls; it’s all about the cinnamon rolls) It’s basically about appreciating the little joys in life.
And when you put it like that, you can start to see some cultural similarities.
Although the fundamentals can be applied regardless of season, it’s in winter that hygge really comes into its own. Obviously a lot of the joy of hygge is found in the home, with extra hygge points if it’s cold and/or raining outside, but you can also be hyggelig while out and about.
Turin is roasting in the summer months, but the autumn usually comes with fog and drizzle, and winters can be pretty brutal (it’s much colder than the UK here, I assure you) so you can happily kick into hygge overdrive as soon as the clocks go back.
But what are the best ways to inject some hygge into your Italian life?
Step 1: Hyggefy your home.
In Italy, where carpets are as rare as unicorns, that means buying a serious amount of rugs. While you’re at it, get some candles, woolly blankets, fluffy socks and a hot water bottle. Plump up those cushions, power up Netflix, make yourself a big cup of tea (or glass of red), and enjoy your joyful hyggelig nest.
Step 2: Find a cosy café to take a break from the world.
While Italian coffee culture isn’t very hyggelig at all (standing up for a quick shot of caffeine at the bar – no thanks!), more and more cafes with comfy sofas and huge mugs of caffè americano are cropping up.
There’s nothing more hyggelig than sitting comfortably, putting your phone on silent mode, and getting lost in a good book. If you’re not a big reader, take a notebook and make your Christmas list, or invite your best friend to join you for a long catch up over a lovely warm cappuccino.
In Turin, Pepe in Piazza Maria Teresa is a great place to sit and relax, alone or in company, when the weather isn’t great. It has comfy sofas and cosy interior decor which will make you feel right at home.
If you’d prefer somewhere more elegant, try the Circolo dei Lettori in via Bogino. To access the WiFi, you’ll need to pay a small annual fee (it’s about €10 if you’re under 30, and also gets you into some reading groups and special talks, if you’re interested). The place is beautiful – like an old Italian stately home – and there’s a bar to keep you caffeinated as you relax. It’s a reading space, so is always pleasingly silent.
If you’re after something a bit different, head to the cat café, Miagola, in via Amendola. Here you can tuck into some tea and cake, and snuggle with some kitties while you do – you can’t get much more hyggelig than coffee and cats.
Step 3: Indulge.
The Danes are big fans of eating for pleasure. And the good news is: so are the Italians.
Arguably Turin’s best winter treat is the hot chocolate from Gobino, a famous chocolatier in the city centre (via Lagrange). When I say hot chocolate, I mean literally melted chocolate in a mug, served with little chocolates, and a pot of whipped cream on the side if you wish.
If you’re after something savory, try dinner at Cianci in piazza IV Marzo for the cosiest, most comforting homemade food around – simple piedmontese specialties, in Grandmother-style quantities, washed down with yummy local wine from a jug, and eaten in company either inside the restaurant or in the patio-heated ‘dehor’. (NB: they don’t take bookings, so be prepared to leave your name, go for an aperitivo elsewhere, and come back later).
Step 4: Unwind like a Scandinavian.
Ok, at around €50 a pop, it’s not cheap, but the QC Terme spa in Corso Vittorio is about the most hyggelig way you could spend a Sunday. It’s popular in summer thanks to the outdoor area with sun loungers, but in the winter months the place is even better, if you ask me. The garden area gives you a little flavor of Iceland, with hot pools to soak in despite the chilly outside air. Inside, you’ll find saunas, steam rooms, and various other pools, as well as a whole floor of ‘relaxation rooms’, including water beds, little wicker teepees, cosy egg chairs, and comfy beanbags around a fireplace. Relaxing music and deliciously relaxing scents are a given. In the evening, there’s an all-the-prosecco-you-can-drink aperitivo, and the place is open til midnight, so despite the price tag, you do get your money’s worth. I’ve been both alone and in company, and have always come out feeling like a queen of hygge.
Step 5: Get outside.
I know. It’s cold and you can’t think of anything worse than leaving your warm bed. But once the drizzly autumn is over, winter here tends to be crisp and dry so if you wrap up well, you can happily wander around for hours. Put on your puffer jacket, your woolly hat, and a lovely blanket scarf (Mango usually has some really warm ones which don’t cost a fortune) and go for a walk. Every second Sunday each month, you’ll find the Gran Balôn antiques market behind Piazza della Repubblica, which is always a nice excuse to get outside. If you prefer something a little more solitary, take a walk up beyond the Villa della Regina, to parco di Villa Genero – it’s not a long walk, has a great view of the city, and you certainly won’t be bothered by crowds.
Step 6: Make time for happiness.
Italians are already very good at taking things slowly and making time for socializing and relaxing. Arriving late isn’t such a deal breaker here, desk lunches and rushing around are discouraged, and an aperitivo after work is always welcome, even when you’ve had a busy day, have other plans later on, or can’t really afford to be out at all. Non-Italians aren’t so great at this, so make a concerted effort to say no to stress and yes to quiet socialising and calming activities. You won’t regret it.