Passeggiata is derived from the Italian verb passeggiare meaning to stroll or take a slow walk. Well, we know about slow food in Italy, but slow walking, too? Si! And what a delightful tradition it is.
Around midday (usually 1:00-1:30pm), you may find many eateries and shops open in larger cities but the small towns are virtually deserted. Windows and doors of homes and shops alike are tightly shuttered closed to keep out the heat and noise. Streets and piazze are empty. Don’t even think about finding an open osteria or trattoria!
In late afternoon there are signs of life… the sound of doors unlocking and shutters opening. Shop signs change from “chiuso” to “aperto” and by 5:00 – 6:00, in the town centers and piazze of cities large and small, the time-honored ritual of the passeggiata, the evening stroll, is observed once more.
No internet, no Facebook or Twitter is needed to find out local news, gossip or, for that matter, what’s going on in the world. The exchange of greetings and casual conversation is warm and friendly. Perhaps just a nod and smile or perhaps pausing to chat with friends, shopkeepers or neighbors standing in their doorways. Everyone is invited to join in. Dogs are walked and children are encouraged to play. It’s lively and it’s absolutely lovely…
In the tiny hamlet of Squinzano, this evening ritual takes place in Piazza Plebiscito. Instead of a stroll, chairs appear, benches are filled and soon circles of what appears to be mostly retired men gather to chat and socialize. One can guess that they have known each other all of their lives. There’s a friendly murmur, lots of gesturing and laughter.
And, where are the ladies of Squinzano? Perhaps enjoying a few hours of neighborly chatter while the men solve the world’s problems?