The other day I was faced with the question, “what do you do when you’re in Italy?” And funnily enough, I was at a bit of a loss for a response. What activities did I fill my day with, apart from going to work? So I mulled it over a little bit, running through reels of memories as if I were watching a movie in my mind’s eye. It didn’t take long for the answer to come to me. In Italy I ate well, I drank, I socialized, I slept much less than I do in Canada, and I walked.
And walked, and walked and walked. Sometimes I sauntered or strolled, wandered or wove, but it was walking all the same.
Not only was the heel-toe express my main method of transportation for many kilometers every day, but I also tore a page out of the Italians’ book and would fare una passeggiata (take a walk or go for a stroll) most nights after dinner. I would change out of my daytime duds, spiff myself up a bit and would meet my friends in the piazza for our nightly outing.
The passeggiata isn’t just an aimless walk around the town centre though. Quite the contrary. Depending on the size of the town or city, there are usually areas like the main piazza or main street where people tend to congregate and fare una passeggiata. And they stroll, hand in hand, arm in arm, old men, teenagers and toddlers alike. They meet friends on the street and stop in the middle of everything to kiss and chat. They eat a gelato, or wander with a bottle of beer in hand, because the centro (downtown) in Italy is akin to the North American backyard. Come on over, make yourself comfortable, grab a drink and relax in the company of others, but do it as you fare una passeggiata.
The passeggiata, which can also take place in the late afternoon or early evening before dinner, is Italy’s version of the Swiss Army Knife but made by Gucci – it can be used for anything, but isn’t so fundamentally practical that it lacks Italian flair. It’s the Italian answer to socializing, digestion, family time, window shopping, date night, exercise, relaxation, showing off, people-watching and the neighbourhood security patrol.
And you thought Italians didn’t do efficiency.