Friday, December 14, 2012

My favorite Italian evening ritual... The Passeggiata

       As day softens into dusk in Italy, something in the air seems to tug people from their homes and workplaces to participate in one of the enduring traditions of Italian life: la passeggiata.
The Passeggiata is a popular Italian ritual, so regardless of where you are in the bel paese, you should always be able to find and join the local stroll. It starts around dusk and happens most often in the historical center of the town or along the beachfront lungomare. 
Andiamo a fare qualche vasca! (Literally, let’s go do some laps—as in a pool), Italians say to one another. However, this "cultural performance," as sociologists describe it, involves much more than strolling to and fro.
I (Edina) took this photo in Rome this fall on the Piazza di Spagna. 
In Riva del Garda (Trentino), the streets buzz with toddlers on tricycles, giddy teenagers in their glittery shoes, young couples, holding hands and stealing kisses and moms, dads and grandparents meeting other moms, dads and grandparents and talking about their day. I remember the air was balmy and the gentle evening breeze was irresistible. I simply couldn't stay in my room. 

During the week, the passeggiata marks the end of the workday and offers a moment of sociability before the family dinner. On Saturday and Sunday, the passeggiata often becomes the main social event of the day, when entire families take to the streets.
The most important thing, it seems, is simply seeing and being seen (vedere e farsi vedere). In some cities, people clearly dress to impress or at least to show how well life has been treating them. Shirts are pressed; jeans, if worn, are stylish. Even babies in their prams are ready for proud display.
For townspeople of all ages, the passeggiata reinforces a sense of belonging. The greeting of friends and acquaintances and the sharing of the latest news weave everyone into the human fabric of the community.
(Courtesy to Dianne Hales)

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