The Italian Passeggiata

As the sun wanes in the western sky the cool evening air beckons to all Italians everywhere to take to the streets – for la passeggiata. Young and old, and in between – it’s time for the evening promenade.

If you’ve never experienced one, I can only assume you’ve never been to Italy. At least not the real Italy. For this long-standing, enduring, and much loved custom is as prominent as pizza and cappuccino!

The Italian passeggiata is an enduring, and much loved custom. As prominent as pizza and cappuccino. And Italy wouldn’t be Italy without it!

The passeggiata is a relaxed, easy-going activity.

And healthy too – physically, psychologically, and socially. Something that most of us could benefit from! Many today live cut off from others, closed in by busyness and privacy walls. But with this wonderful tradition, isolation is not a problem!

So if you find yourself in Italy, head to the town’s centro storico (historic center) or lungomare (boardwalk) if you’re by the sea. And just join the crowd!

But newcomers beware!

While this easygoing, relaxed stroll is mostly a chance to meet up with friends and learn the neighborhood news, it’s also a time ‘to see and be seen’. An opportunity to show off your newest outfit or shoes. Or in our strange digital age – your new smartphone – prominently taking selfies, of course!

And in this land of fashion and beauty, most Italians dress up even to go grocery shopping! So perhaps it would be best to leave your sweatpants in your suitcase…

A bit of history.

Though no one seems to know just when the passeggiata got its start, even the older folks all remember it from their childhoods. Which brings us to an interesting tidbit of Italian culture.

In past decades, young couples were not allowed to date, or even go out for a casual gelato. All courtship took place at the girl’s home, with mamma, papà (or both) always present. Or perhaps, if the young man seemed quite safe, a sibling could act as chaperone.

The only time they really got a bit of freedom was during the evening stroll. Back in the day, the passeggiata was quite a segregated activity. The men drinking caffè or grappa liquor at the bars, with the women gossiping along benches on the street.

Here, the girls were allowed to stroll along with their girlfriends, and flirt a bit with the boys – from a safe distance. And always under mamma’s watchful eye. And since all parents hoped to make a good match for their daughters, they they were dressed to make a bella figura, or cut a beautiful figure.

The lovely passeggiata has endured down through the generations. And probably always will because Italians love it as much as their pasta and espresso – well almost!

We love it, and Italy wouldn’t really be Italy without it! So you’ll often find us out for a stroll in the evenings. It’s a great way to greet neighbors, get a breath of fresh air and maybe a bit of gelato! And if you’ve never tried the homemade gelato featured in most Italian gelaterias, you don’t know what you’re missing!

Care to join us for la passeggiata? The gelato’s on us!

Images are my own.

Published by Signora Sheila

Missionary blogger, wife, mom, nonna. Join my simple life journey of faith and missions in small town Italy!

14 thoughts on “The Italian Passeggiata

  1. Oh I would so love to participate in this wonderful custom! I love to talk with people, especially people I’ve never met before. Even here in the States when I go out for my morning walk I’m always looking for an opportunity to chat with folks. Italy sounds like my kind of place! Are the people there generally friendly to “outsiders”?

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    1. Yes, it really is! It’s actually quite a community time! That’s true, not many do sit out on porches over there now. We need to get back to some of the great old ways, for sure! If you ever make it over here we can take a passeggiata together though!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Cynthia, yes we are well and things are doing much better here in Italy, thank the Lord. Hope you are well over there, especially amidst all the mess that is happening. Daily I see how much my homeland needs prayer. It is all so heartbreaking. Keep well, stay safe, and know that my thoughts and prayers are with you all. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What a lovely custom! Too many of us here in America live rather isolated lives; we don’t even know all our neighbors. We enjoy gelato at a shop not far from our son’s house. I wonder how it compares to yours?!

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    1. It is indeed Nancy! It really does do a lot toward creating community. Sorry I haven’t answered before this, but we rarely get an internet connection here in the hometown. Which isn’t all bad, as it helps even more toward connecting with people!!

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