As evening falls and the harsh sun inches out of your favorite piazza, an evening ritual is bound to begin, the Italian tradition of passeggiata, a gentle stroll (slow! think slow!) through the main streets of the old town, usually in the pedestrian zones in the centro storico (the historic center) or along the lungomare if you're by the sea.
Italians tend to dress up for passeggiata, and tourists are usually easy to spot in their shorts and day packs.
Older folks sit along the route, on a bench or nursing a beer or a glass of wine in the bar, and watching for things to gossip about; la passeggiata is where new romances and new babies are on display as well as new shoes. Folks of all ages take part in the passeggiata, from the youngest babies being pushed in their strollers to the oldest members of the community who take it all in from the sidelines.
Where and When to Go for a Passeggiata
Passeggiata is an especially popular ritual on Sunday evenings. Sunday lunch is often a big meal that's a long, drawn out affair, so the evening is the perfect time for abandoning the house and taking a walk. Sunday evening is the time to see and be seen, catch up with old friends, and make good impressions on new ones. If you want a real taste of Italian life, find a Sunday evening passeggiata and either stroll along or find a bench or bar where you can take in the scene.
Summer is another big time for the passeggiata. During the summer, some Italians even drive to the coast or the lakes for a special passeggiata Beaches and seaside towns are often very crowded on summer weekends and for the entire month of August and passeggiata is a big part of the seaside cultural scene.
Passeggiata is more prominent in southern Italy and and on the islands of Sicily and Sardinia. Passeggiata takes place nearly all year in southern Italian towns, cities, and along the coast.