One of the most quintessential of all Italian traditions is the passeggiata, when friends and family take to the streets of their town in the early evening, usually between 5 and 8 pm, and well, wander.
The word passeggiata comes from the verb passeggiare, an Italian word for walk, combined with the suffix “-ata” which indicates little, so a “little walk”. More specifically, passeggiare signifies a slow walk. A promenade. Maybe even a stroll. But interestingly, the daily passeggiata is often not a walk at all. Sometimes, it’s just a chat with friends, in front of a cafe — known as a bar to Italians — or in the town’s central piazza, or at a favorite gathering spot.
Why wander like this? A few of the documented reasons include to work off, or work up to, a delicious and filling meal, to see and be seen, or even to get into the dating pool.
But the true meaning is timeless, and touching. “For townspeople of all ages, the passeggiata reinforces a sense of belonging,” explains author Dianne Hales for Fodor’s Travel. “The greeting of friends and acquaintances, the swapping of gossip, and the sharing of the latest news weave everyone into the human fabric of the community.”
And the beauty of the passeggiata is that it’s open to everyone, so when you find yourself in Italy, join in! Before or after your aperitivo (another essential evening activity), find a popular, possibly pedestrian-only street, the central piazza, or the lungomare if you are near the sea, enjoy the golden light, and practice the fine Italian art of the evening stroll.