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What You Need to Know About Italy's Evening Ritual "La Passeggiata" Before You Go



24 February 2023

When you think of visiting Italy for your vacation, thoughts of sunbathing by the Mediterranean Sea, lapping up creamy gelatos, and devouring a delicious Napoletana pizza come quickly to mind. But the country that's stolen millions of hearts around the world, and has been the centerpiece of hundreds of films, is so much more than that. Yes, Italy is known for its beautiful landscapes, captivating beaches, and charming villages and towns, but Italy also honors its long-standing traditions and values life over work, which is even more appealing. In fact, these traditions are respected and cherished by both the young and the elderly, and rightfully so, as they are the building blocks to experiencing la dolce vita fully.

From closing shops early one day per week to closing them for the whole month of August so Italians can spend the end of summer by the sea leisurely with their families (Ferragosto), to inviting a friend for a caffè before work, and an aperitivo afterward: It's the little things, and the time spent doing them that make Italians so very special. And, there's one time-honored tradition that is such a delight to watch and experience in person, it could very well become a part of your daily lifestyle once you return back home. It's Italy's popular evening ritual known as La Passeggiata, and it's a daily cultural, and social activity (and Italian custom) you need to know about before you go.

The Art of Strolling, Italian-style

It's just after 5 p.m. and you're sitting in the magical Piazza Navona in the heart of Rome enjoying a chilled prosecco and bruschetta (aperitivo). Suddenly, you notice that people are emerging from everywhere into the square, and it becomes quite busy. Women linked arm-in-arm, men gathered in small groups as they talk and laugh, children grasping their mother and father's fingers with that wondrous gaze only kids can display about their surroundings and life as they walk slowly past you. What you are witnessing, and what happens in the whole of Italy every single day, is La Passeggiata.

What is La Passeggiata, you ask? It's a delightful, old Italian custom that simply translated, means "the stroll," or "the walk." You see, back in the day when women wore dresses, and men wore suits, it was important for parents to display their young daughters by dressing them in beautiful attire, before strolling with them through the city or town's main square in attempts to catch the eye of young male suitors, and hopefully a marriage proposal. However, it wasn't long before La Passeggiata became a daily cultural and social activity for everyone in Italy to show off their best clothing, and slowly stroll through the main streets and squares of Italy chatting, enjoying the fresh air after a busy workday before their evening dinner, window shopping, and meeting up with people for a glass of vino.

Respecting Tradition and Treasuring Those Special Moments in Life

Italy honors a completely different outlook on life when it comes to working and living compared to the United States. Life and family come first, and the balance scales between them and work tips favorably toward the former two. Italians also eat dinner much later than Americans. That being said, when visiting Italy, it's important that you know that between the hours of 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. each day (and varying hours on Sundays), Italians devote that time to La Passeggiata by mingling with their families, friends, neighbors, and guests, enjoying an aperitivo first, and after 8 p.m., dinner is served. So, if you find yourselves among them when this magical evening ritual begins, do as the Italians do and treasure these special moments in life, and walk the walk (slowly).

And, while some who visit may not understand the reasoning behind the fascinating tradition of the evening stroll, nor feel inclined to partake in it, merely sitting in an outdoor Piazza, or watching from your hotel window as Italians stroll past you is as therapeutic and meditative as the act itself, and one that should be respected. And, it very well may fascinate you enough to join in and be a part of the lively and heartfelt camaraderie that we Italians are so well known for.

This article originally appeared published here by the same author.

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