Zola's Hornets take on Crystal Palace at Wembley on Monday afternoon in the Championship play-off final, with the winners securing promotion to the top-flight.
Should Watford triumph, Zola will have a second crack at managing in the Premier League just three years after he was sacked by West Ham.
The sacking was hard to take for the 46-year-old former Chelsea striker, but after a trip to see Guardiola at Barcelona, and Zdenek Zeman, who worked wonders at Pescara before being snapped up by current club Roma, he soon felt he was ready to give management another go.
"It was hard for me personally because I always live the game very intensively, I always take my work him," said Zola of his sacking at Upton Park.
"It was tough. That's why I took time off. It was time to go back to basics, to go back to the books and do things that could help me with my managerial career.
"I watched a few teams that I was interested in. The first team was a Serie B team Pescara where Zeman was the manager. I like him and his style of football. I spent time with him and it was very good.
"Then I went to see Barcelona - another pretty good team - and it was very inspirational.
"And it wasn't inspirational because of all the stuff they do on the pitch, it was also the way they conducted themselves, the players and managers. That impressed me very much. Very remarkable."
Given how Watford have performed this season in the Championship, it seems that Zola's sabbatical has been time well spent.
The Italian has managed to integrate a raft of foreign players - most of them on loan from Udinese - into his squad and guide the club to within a whisker of automatic promotion.
Many West Ham fans felt owners David Gold and David Sullivan acted harshly when they axed Zola, but the Italian admits he probably lacked the experience to tackle the pressures of top-flight management.
"Sometimes in that experience I didn't give 100% of myself," he added. "So I felt bad with myself. I could have done more. I didn't have the experience I have now.
"I should have put my ideas more across rather than going on a conservative way. I should have been more positive.
"But I believe that experience was very important because only through tough moments do you get better."