by Annette Bridges. ©2010. All rights reserved.

I’ve just returned from my trip to Italy, and I’m trying to find the words to describe the experience. I suspect it may take several columns to cover all the inspirations and insights gleaned from my travels.

My first conclusion is that you must feel Italy — not merely see it. Indeed, there are many sights to see. But if you rush around trying to see as many as possible during your brief visit, you will miss the most important experience of all — cappuccino.

I fell in love with cappuccino while in Italy. Perhaps this love affair was made possible because cafés do not serve your cappuccino in a to-go cup. No, the only way to truly enjoy a soothing cup of cappuccino — and the café owners know this — is in a small china cup. This requires you to stop and sit or stand still while you drink.

Relishing my many cappuccino encounters allowed me to think about how I was feeling. And I loved how I felt as I slowly sipped — not wanting my cup to empty too fast. I felt calm, attentive, refreshed and happy. I felt an appreciation and an awareness of the moment I’ve never felt before.

Italy and cappuccino were teaching me what it means to “live in the moment.” No longer were these just words that sounded like a good idea. Indeed, before I came to Italy, putting those words into practice was sometimes harder than it sounded.

Even the tour guide in Bologna emphasized the importance of feeling what we were seeing. She said what was important was to notice how we felt in each church — each an example of a distinct architectural style and time in history.

She said, too, that each church represented a different understanding of man’s relationship to God. In one church, she said, we can feel the man entering with his head down waiting for a better life after death. In another church, she said, we can feel man looking upward with hope of a better life that is possible right now.

One of my friends questioned our tour guide about the name of a church we had just toured. And the tour guide said its name didn’t matter — wanting us to think only about how it made us feel. And so I did.

Life doesn’t pass us by, my friends. But I think we can pass life by if we walk too fast. In Italy I learned to slow down. Actually, this isn’t something I learned so much as it just happened as I focused on and appreciated each moment. I took a deep breath with every step, and I couldn’t help but walk more slowly.

I remember a line from a favorite country song: “I’m in a hurry and don’t know why.” But I do know why I’m no longer in a hurry! Living six days in Italy was enough to help me really understand why.

Life happens in the moments. And each moment is precious and longing to please us, love us, comfort us, engage us, if only we slow down and allow ourselves to feel and experience each moment. I will not forget this lesson now that I’m home. I don’t want to ever miss “feeling” a moment of life again!

To make sure I don’t, I’m ordering everything I need to make cappuccino — with an Italian brand moka, milk foamer and espresso. Somehow, I think making and having a delicious cup of cappuccino before I start each day will help me remember what is most important. And from now on, when I’m out and about and want a cappuccino, I plan to go into the coffee shops and sit down instead of going through the drive-throughs. No more to-go cups for me!