The more time I spend in Italy, the more I realize that it is the simplicity in everyday things that adds magic to life here. From fresh laundry hanging out to dry to the perfect no-frills pasta dish made with a handful of fresh ingredients, Italians have turned simple living into an art form. It's no surprise then that one of Italy's most endearing traditions requires no more than your own two feet and time. The passeggiata, or evening stroll, is one of my favorite parts of the day. It is easy to participate and adds so much richness to life.
What is La Passeggiata?
Merriam-Webster defines passeggiata as "a traditional evening stroll in the central plaza by a town's residents."
The word derives from the Italian verb passeggiare, which means to walk.
Where does it take place?
It usually takes place in the center of town in the main pedestrian shopping areas and piazzas.
When does it happen?
During the week people participate in the passeggiata roughly between 5-8PM. On the weekends, it can happen at any time during the day.
What do people do?
People walk. Slowly. There is no rush and there is no destination. In fact, it is normal to walk from one end of a main pedestrian street to the other and then back again several times. Along the way people stop to gossip or catch up with one another. They window shop, and of course they also order coffee, gelato or an aperitivo. They talk about local politics, the soccer game, somebody's wedding. Complimenting parents with newborns is a must.
The idea is to see and be seen, and before heading out for the passeggiata people will usually go home and change out of their work or school clothes and put something nicer on.
Everyone! The passeggiata is for all people: the young flirt, the old socialize, the after-work crowd decompress from their day. On weekends, entire families often go out together. Guests on tour with Tourissimo go out during the time after riding and before dinner.
Why is it so special?
As I said before, the magic of so many special parts of Italian culture is in the simplicity. Anyone can participate in the passeggiata, and many Italians do. Even tourists participate. I especially love going out for a passeggiata when I am exploring a new Italian city or town on my own. It's the perfect setting to people watch and also feel included in society even when traveling alone.
There are many physical and psychological benefits of participating in the passeggiata. While the pace is slow, the fact that people are walking, sometimes for several hours and often multiple times a week, is good for health. So is fresh air and and time outdoors. Intergenerational social interaction, which is a prominent part of Italian culture, keeps people physically and mentally active longer into life. And participating in a community event (even when alone) makes people feel connected and included, part of a bigger whole.
Our guests love taking part in the passeggiata and some of the most memorable moments of a trip take place during those pre-dinner strolls.