Italian Customs and Traditions: La Passeggiata - WanderWisdom - Travel
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Italian Customs and Traditions: La Passeggiata

A passionate traveler, Suzanne has spent time in different regions of Italy, particularly Puglia in southern Italy, and is studying Italian.

San Michele Salentino Piazza

italian-customs-and-traditions-la-passeggiata

An Old Italian Custom

When I started thinking about the first time La Passeggiata (pa-se-ja-ta) came to my attention, it was not on my first visit to Italy, which was to the Eternal City of Rome, but on my second.

I witnessed this time-old Italian custom in a tiny village I fell in love with. Since then it has become the most warming welcome each time I return. So what is this most precious tradition I refer to?

La Passeggiata stems from the Italian verb "passeggiare," meaning to stroll or take a slow walk, emphasis on the slow, but it is SO MUCH more than that.

Piazza Carrignano, Torino

San Michele Salentino, Italy

When in Italy . . .

Picture the scene if you will. Two casually attired weary travellers pull up in a bright yellow Panda in the small sleepy town of San Michele Salentino (san /me-kay-lay/ sal-en-tino) on the southeast coast of Italy, as the sun bears farewell for the day.

Getting out of the car to stretch our legs, our first thought was “It seems very busy here on the piazza” (the village square) ,having taken a quick scan around.

As we looked closer, there were men of all ages walking slowly in small groups up and down this tiny square, chatting away, laughing, stopping when they reached the end and repeated the walk again. This they did many times.

We were fascinated. There were small cafes and a few take away eateries that had groups of men standing and sitting outside enjoying the last rays of the day, sipping a red wine or indulging in an espresso. Why was it only men? Where the Italian mamas not welcome?

The piazza that follows the Italian custom and traditional ritual of taking a nightly stroll.

The piazza that follows the Italian custom and traditional ritual of taking a nightly stroll.

Italian Etiquette

What we were seeing was a custom and tradition practiced in every Italian city, town and village that is the most Italian part of any day. Between the hours of 5pm and 8pm there is a mass exodus from the businesses and homes as the passionate Italians take to the streets.

La Passeggiata is the social event of the day where friends can meet and catch up on the day’s activities. Women look for the latest bit of gossip or scandal while interlinking arms and at weekends it is a family occasion with the entire famiglia going for a stroll.

Many Italians will go for an unplanned spontaneous dinner with friends they meet on their stroll so being appropriately attired makes sense. In the summer months at the weekends, Italian families often decide to take a special passeggiata and head to the lakes or seaside towns for their stroll.

Italian cultural etiquette has long been recognised throughout the world as having three big areas of focus.The importance of the family and friends, the deep faith they have in their chosen church or religion and the importance they hold on dressing smartly with close attention paid to making an impression. First impressions are very important to Italians so this code of etiquette should not be underestimated.

The Italian mamas catching up on the latest gossip during La Passeggiata in Florence.

The Italian mamas catching up on the latest gossip during La Passeggiata in Florence.

La Passeggiata - the father and sister of the painter. Painted by Vincenzo Cabianca (1867).

La Passeggiata - the father and sister of the painter. Painted by Vincenzo Cabianca (1867).

Origins of La Passeggiata

La Passeggiata signifies the time to “dress to impress” and “to see and be seen”. With Italian social etiquette being steeped in social behavior and traditions, reputation and consideration of others is important.

It was originally the custom for young women ready for marriage to be dressed in their best clothes and displayed in this manner by their families as image was important.They were also encouraged to flirt with all available men who were potential husband material during the walk. No doubt the mamas and papas would be keeping a close eye on any developments!

Today more often than not, many Italians will go home to change to make sure they are “fare la bella figura” or ‘cutting a beautiful figure’ before taking their evening passeggiata before dinner.

To See and Be Seen Above Piazza Spagna, Rome

A Custom in All of Italy

In the big cities for example, la passeggiata will often take place in the main pedestrian zones, main streets and piazzas.

In Rome for example, the swell of people down the main shopping hub of Via Del Corso often brings traffic to a standstill as those out on their stroll do a bit of window shopping. A favourite venue is to head to the piazza and the two most famous and busy ones in Rome are Piazza Di Spagna or Spanish Steps and Piazza Narvona.

In the smaller towns and villages for the evening stroll, just head to the central piazza or main street usually found in the historic centre or centro storico. During the week it signifies the end of the working day and it will be predominantly men that are doing their laps of the piazza, before heading home for mamas rustic cooking with the family.

Dress to impress—Italian style.

Dress to impress—Italian style.

A Memory to Cherish

Our first encounter was one we cherish. We have since experienced la passeggiata in many small towns in southern Italy and it is such a charming ritual, steeped in tradition.

It unites young and old within the community and keeps the flames of culture burning bright. If you find yourself out and about enjoying Italy, don’t be taken by surprise if you get swept along with the crowds.

If you go with it and embrace this important Italian custom, you will leave knowing you were part of something very special and you will be enriched by la passeggiata.

Ciao!

A Quick Poll -

© 2012 Suzanne Ridgeway

Italian Customs And Traditions: La Passeggiata Comments

Jerry Cornelius on May 19, 2019:

Great hub, Suzanne. Really nailed what 'La Passeggiata' is all about. One of my favourite Italian traditions.

Natasha Pelati from South Africa on August 05, 2015:

beautiful and takes me back! I love Italy, the way of life, the food, the people and all the traditions.

Greensleeves Hubs from Essex, UK on August 04, 2015:

Suzie, La Passeggiata seems a long word for a very simple yet charming tradition which, as you indicate, must help to unite people of all generations and all walks of life within a community. That can only be good for society. Somehow mainland Europe and notably the countries of the Mediterranean, always seems better than we are at this kind of social getting together.

As usual with your articles, the hub is well written and beautifully presented. (And I love the Italian flag dividers!) Thanks.

Hope all is well with you, and hope to see more from you in the future :) Voted up and shared, Alun

Suzanne Ridgeway (author) from Dublin, Ireland on October 08, 2012:

Hi rcrumple,

Well, well well ...Napoli eh? You could not be more right about the traffic - we got lost trying to find our hotel and then to get out of Napoli! Check out Bill De Guilio's great hubs on Italy, his newest are on Sicily and are gorgeous!

Glad you have such great memories of Italia and La Passeggiata! Appreciate your comments always!

Rich from Kentucky on October 08, 2012:

Bene! Thanks for bringing back that memory. My first stop in Italy was Napoli. The traffic was a nightmare and hundreds of people were roaming the street. Being new to the Med, I still rushed everywhere, as I had in the states, and couldn't understand why no one seemed to be in a hurry to get somewhere. I learned later of what you've described so well. My fav place were Genova, Roma & Napoli. Sicily also hit my fancy in Siracusa and Taormina. I miss them so, and the style of living they offer. Ciao!

Suzanne Ridgeway (author) from Dublin, Ireland on October 07, 2012:

Thanks fhbtrades, glad you enjoyed!

Aryan Bajoria from Kolkata, India on October 06, 2012:

That's Very Interesting !

Suzanne Ridgeway (author) from Dublin, Ireland on October 06, 2012:

Hi OM,

Glad you enjoyed a trip down memory lane! It is one of those customs that stays with you. Appreciate your interest and comments as always :-)

Om Paramapoonya on October 06, 2012:

An Italian friend told me about la passeggiata long time ago, and you describe it very well here. I think it's a very cool tradition. Thanks for sharing this lovely hub. Now my wanderlust is fully activated!

Suzanne Ridgeway (author) from Dublin, Ireland on October 06, 2012:

Lucky you Sam! It must have been a great experience! Hopefully you will get to do an article on it! :-)

Samantha Harris from New York on October 06, 2012:

Oh lol, no I'm not, but I studied abroad there during college. I say homesick because I felt more at home there then I did in America. I really hope I can go back though, someday.

Suzanne Ridgeway (author) from Dublin, Ireland on October 06, 2012:

Hi Sam,

I didn't realise you were Italian?!! I am delighted you enjoyed and found it interesting! Hopefully you will get back to the homeland! Appreciate your comments :-)

Samantha Harris from New York on October 06, 2012:

What a beautiful page! And such a wonderful Hub. I'm so homesick for Italy now.

Suzanne Ridgeway (author) from Dublin, Ireland on October 06, 2012:

Hi chef,

Thanks for that! It is something that certainly seems much more prevalent in other european countries which is sad. It's such a great custom to have. Appreciate your support and comments!

Andrew Spacey from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK on October 06, 2012:

Thanks for this Suzie HQ - we seem to have lost the tradition in the UK - I'm sure my old granny and auntie would go for a quick walk around the block summer evenings especially - and my old uncle would sit on the wall along with other old men!! - you don't see that today at all.

In parts of Spain they have el paseo which sounds similar to La Passeggiatta - families walking along the streets before the evening meal. So nice to see, nicer to join.

Suzanne Ridgeway (author) from Dublin, Ireland on October 06, 2012:

Hi teaches,

Thanks very much for visiting, comments and votes! Your so right that it would be great to see it across the world as a mandatory custom. It always seems to be in mainland Europe (as I refer to it as UK and Ireland are Islands) and other continents you see really charming community orientated customs or traditions. Thanks teaches, have a great weekend!!

Dianna Mendez on October 06, 2012:

I see most of us have not heard of this before by your poll. I remember my parents used to stroll our old neighborhood when I was a child. As they walk, we would take a jump rope or scooter along for fun. What a great family activity this is ... we should make this mandatory in the US. Voted up!

Suzanne Ridgeway (author) from Dublin, Ireland on October 06, 2012:

Hi Daniel,

Thanks very much, good to see you! How interesting you studied Italian. I went to classes twice here and try to use whenever there. It's a beautiful language spoken right. I never tire of listening to it!

I am happy you enjoyed this look at a fascinating ritual that has been one the best reasons for me to return!

Appreciate your comments greatly :-)

Daniel Johnston from Portland, Oregon on October 05, 2012:

In studying Italian I decided it was only logical to try to study the culture. It would have been much easier to find this than the tired old guide books I was looking through. I have never been, but you seem to have written a concise yet comprehensive article detailing one of the hardest things to describe: a collective human behavior and tradition.

Suzanne Ridgeway (author) from Dublin, Ireland on October 05, 2012:

Hi vespa,

It is true, and so much so in the towns and villages in Italy.You never see drunks or lots of gangs hanging around and you actually feel safe at night which coming from a city, is a rarity now. La Passeggiata is a wonderful charming tradition we could learn from, as you rightly point out! Thanks as always for your great comments, votes and shares - have a great weekend!

Suzanne Ridgeway (author) from Dublin, Ireland on October 05, 2012:

Cheers Bill,

Isn't it wonderful how something so simple as taking a stroll slowly (not the power walking many of us tend to do) with family and friends can bring communities together. As you only know too well being the voice of Simple Living and Living Simple. That's the key my friend as well you know and I reckon you are part Irish but definitely a part of the Italian Stallion lies within!!!

The piazza there will await your arrival!

Ciao my friend, have a good one! :-)

Suzanne Ridgeway (author) from Dublin, Ireland on October 05, 2012:

Hi Effer!

LOL . .Oh I do know about the wandering hands, hugging and kissing . . .that's another hub . . .in fact that ones YOURS to do!!! LOL Can't wait for your Italian hub, I really do love everything about Italy and have to pinch myself sometimes thinking of our place there waiting for us to move in permanently. Lots of hub material there.

Thanks so much for your comments, La Passeggiata is something to see and many tourists may not even be aware of it when there. Cheers and thanks for the big votes of confidence!!!!

CIAO!

Vespa Woolf from Peru, South America on October 05, 2012:

I've never heard of la passeggiata, and now I feel like I've been missing out! What a beautiful custom. I really think it would draw families and communities closer together and lower levels of stress. There is so much we have to learn. This is beautifully written and fascinating. Thanks so much! Voted up and shared.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on October 05, 2012:

Very fascinating Suzie! I am blown away by this custom, and I can't help but wonder how much it would help if Americans did this in the United States, how it might bring us closer.

Wonderful education! Thank you, and have a great weekend.

Suzie from Carson City on October 05, 2012:

Suzy...Now you have gone and impressed this Italian lady....my little Irish lass. I love this hub and want you to know, I am working on a hub of my own ...on Being Italian.....and of course, it will be a laugher.

For the record.....eating, drinking and chilling is the Italian way....but FYI there's a whole lots of hands flying, hugging, kissing and screaming going on too!......UP+++

Suzanne Ridgeway (author) from Dublin, Ireland on October 05, 2012:

Hi Abby,

Great to have you comment! Hope you get there it is a magical country that just sucks you in! Appreciate your interest! :-)

Suzanne Ridgeway (author) from Dublin, Ireland on October 05, 2012:

Hi TT!

LOL . . you would love it I am under no illusion! I have visions of a hubpages crew sitting around the piazza in Michele eating, drinking and chilling . . .definitely the way to go!! How I would love to be back now! Thanks Terry, your humour needs only a few words!! Cheers for the votes and shares, ticket I'l mail with the course info!!! LOL

Abby from Ireland on October 05, 2012:

One day I will make it to Italy! Wonderful hub, love the laidback lifestyle :)

Terrye Toombs from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map. on October 05, 2012:

When are we going? :) Voted up and shared.

Suzanne Ridgeway (author) from Dublin, Ireland on October 05, 2012:

Hi Tammy!

Wow you were quick! Hope it read ok, its something I genuinely adore and I can't wait to go back on a permanent basis. So glad you enjoyed reading this and yes the food is gorgeous. Thanks as always my friend for the support!

Tammy from North Carolina on October 05, 2012:

This looks like such a wonderful place to visit. I can't imagine how wonderful the food is. You make me want to call a travel agent. Great hub!