On a relaxed evening in the Tuscan countryside, we spoke to Irish TV star Brendan Courtney about meditation, pasta making, dance offs and the importance of giving your body a chance to reset.
It's not often a writer gets taught a synchronised swimming routine by the person they are about to interview, but that's precisely what happened when I met Brendan Courtney.
I have since learnt that this is Brendan in a nutshell; he's all about shared experiences. We've just spent a long weekend together in the Birra Moretti Villa, in the Tuscan hillside, and I have witnessed him starting dance-offs, telling some incredibly entertaining stories and chatting to just about everybody who came his way.
We sat down before dinner on Saturday evening to discuss his love for Italian culture and how he tries to live in the present and enjoy life's simple pleasures as much as possible.
"I love Italy. I've been here many times, and I absolutely love the culture. I love how laid back it is and how everybody is in a good mood. And I really like the food. I like how people invest so much time and energy into it.
"We made pasta from scratch yesterday, and I will definitely do that again at home. It was super easy. I've never made pasta before, but I was like, 'Oh! I can do this!'. So, learning something new that keeps me present and mindful was lovely."
As a trained transcendental meditator, taking time every day to consciously slow down is highly important to Brendan.
"Meditation, for me, is like taking your brain out and running it under a cold tap. I love it. I was really struck at how present I was during that pasta class. I was just there, listening, watching, learning, and I really got into it. I forgot the time.
"Being here this weekend and actually chilling out, it is good to give the body a little rest. A bath also recharges me. In fact, after this conversation, I'm going to have a bath in our lovely room in the villa."
Villa Moretti is all about experiencing the Italian way of life. So, when I asked Brendan what Italian living meant to him, he summed it up perfectly.
"I think there's a very 'life is for living' attitude here, and amore is very important to Italian people - love and romance. That comes back to prioritising family and your free time. The time they spend cooking is part of the whole experience of spending time with the people you love, instead of spending time on the grind. Italians are very good at checking their value system and making sure it's about quality of life.
"Italy is a very unique place. It seems to be all about the detail, and that detail is about being present and together."
In Italian culture, aperitivo, the custom of a pre-meal beverage, is usually accompanied by some salty nibbles. So, they give you just enough to get you excited for the main course, but not enough to ruin your dinner, as an Irish mammy would say! And Brendan says he is a big fan of the ritual.
"I would be all about the aperitivo. I absolutely love a little pre-gather, pre-dinner. I would have always done that. And I'm much more of a beer drinker than a wine drinker, and you can have a little glass with aperitivo."
For Brendan and the rest of 'team Ireland', the time at Villa Moretti was spent tucking into delicious Italian food, enjoying a beer with new friends and some much needed late-night dancing. The natural feeling of togetherness was a welcome treat after several years of covid.
"Everybody on this trip is so grateful because of where we are, post the couple of years we've had. There's a real sense of gratitude. We were like bold kids, dancing till late. The freedom of dancing to disco music in a cellar under a Tuscany villa was just so much fun.
"We have been spoilt rotten in Tuscany, and myself and Adam already drink Moretti, so it feels very authentic for us. It's the best press trip I've ever been on. And it's been a lucky mix of people; we'll all be friends after this, I'm sure of it.
"So, when I think of Birra Moretti, I will raise it in Walsh's in Stoney Batter, I’ll close my eyes and I’ll imagine I'm back in Villa Moretti..."
Birra Moretti Autentica and Birra Moretti Zero can be purchased in most off-licences nationwide. To find out more about Birra Moretti, head to https://www.birramoretti.com/ie
Enjoy Birra Moretti Responsibly. Visit Drinkaware.ie.