Passeggiata thoughts

Italian Fact of the Day:

What is a “passeggiata”?

Literally a “passeggiata” is translated into “a walk or stroll”. I will mention “passeggiatas” frequently in my blogs because it is not only a word, but it is a way of life here in Italy. I can not even count the number of passeggiatas that I’ve taken in all parts of this country, and it is a habitual activity that is practically impossible to accomplish in its full ritualistic form in the United States. The streets have been constructed with the currents of Italian footprints, always converging in piazzas and zones of commercial or public activity.

The beginning of summer marks the high season of the passaggiata. In fact the streets outside my window are swinging with Jazz music and buzzing with the noises of a thousand chattering Italians as they relax sipping cocktails for an aperitivo along the Naviglio waterway. Some even raise their voices in drunken song! The bars and restaurants set up huge tents in the street during the warmer months, and they go all out with claiming their pavement space to compose elaborate arrangements of tables, chairs, and lounges for their prospective nightly crowds-finishing touches are added with candles. As aperitivo hour approaches (7:00), they make sure to leave an area of the street open for the crowds that will pave the passeggiata runway for the evening.

The runway is important, and you know that you are making a statement when you walk through the crowds. Walking alone is not advisable passeggiata behavior, and if you are strutting solo, at least pretend that you are headed somewhere interesting! I hope that you have put thought into your attire for the evening as well, especially your shoes (Italians tend to pay particular attention). Every night the streets are filled with life and a flurry of commotion, music drifting from the various locales, while wine and cocktails tune up the tastebuds for good conversation. The aroma of Italian cooking permeates the air as sizzling pizzas, aperitivo selections, and restaurant dishes are placed in front of the people lounging for a night-long affair. On popular evenings, you are lucky to battle the advancing army of parading people, battling for your piece of street to tread as aimlessly as you please!

The routes are undetermined and spontaneous–you can choose a new street, alley or bridge at any given moment! It adds to the excitement of the undestinational walk–or fashionable meandering if you will. Couples strolling hand in hand, kisses seized mid-step, and that one bad boyfriend that checks you out as his girlfriend is clinging to his arm. Groups of singles flock in packs, and teenagers scurry around armed with cellphones and attitudes. The men perch themselves along this nightly runway, calling out to those “lucky” ladies or just staring enough to make them blush. The mature couples walk arm in arm-the woman dressed in light evening Alberta Ferretti dress and her hubby in suave pair of colored pants, a seamless shirt, and a colored sweater tied casually around his neck–picked for you today out of the Brian & Barry catalogue!

The passaggiata does not have to be an evening activity, and it is usually a stroll that ends with piazzas, restaurants, bars, stores, parks, supermarkets, gelaterias, or home. It is a way of life, it is a series of encounters, it is a scenic tour, it is a social event, it is a peaceful unwind, it is a strutting show, it is a current of people, it is hand-in-hand-kiss me over the bridge, it is the breeze in your face, it is the flavor of your gelato, it is the color of your lips-the light in his eyes, it is the laughter in the air, it is undemanding, it is the freedom without agenda, it is the joy of life.

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