If you have been to Italy, you may have been a part of the passeggiata without even noticing. From the verb passeggiare, which means ‘to walk’, the passeggiata is a ritual performed by Italians who take to the streets between 5 and 8 PM. According to experts, it’s a social bonding experience. A way to feel a sense of community and belonging.
“People take the time to do la passeggiata to relax, chat with friends and enjoy the sunset,” said Gloria Ragni, Local Brand Manager for an Italian beverage company. Although the walk can end at a gelato shop or a local bar, the passeggiata is not about going somewhere specific. It’s about doing a few laps around the piazza with friends, lovers or family members. This promenade is also a see and be seen event (vedere e farsi vedere). People of all ages walk slowly, sometimes arm-in-arm or holding hands, dressed up in their Sunday best. Originally, one of the purposes was to display the charms of young women who were eligible to be married. But the passeggiata now fills a range of other social needs. Mostly popular on the weekends, it can also mark the end of the working day.
The good news is that you can do it anywhere, not just in Italy. “I do the passeggiata everywhere from Rome to Singapore to Los Angeles,” said Gloria Ragni. All you need to do is pick a location that you like, rally some friends, dress up a little, head over there before sunset, take a walk and socialize.
(See examples on the map below)
Prime locations share three things:
In many countries, especially Mediterranean and Latin American countries, squares and plazas are a preferred location to get together and take evening strolls. The Piazza del Popolo in Rome, Italy is one of the most impressive I’ve seen. The Terrazza del Pincio, on top of Pincian Hill, overlooks the piazza and offers an incredible sunset view.
The best types of streets and boulevards have wide sidewalks and countless trees so that you can stroll and engage into a conversation, such as the Avenue des Champs-Elysées in Paris, France. The best spot to watch the sunset is on top of the Arc de Triomphe.
Streets that are closed to cars allow you to stop for conversation without being distracted by traffic. They often include festivals, street performers and other features that encourage interaction. Some become pedestrian streets at night or on the weekends, such as Nguyen Hue Street in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
Sometimes located in parks or along the beach, walking trails offer an exclusive view to pedestrians. Just make sure they are well lit at night. One of my favourite walking trails is the Passeig Marítim de la Barceloneta in Barcelona, Spain. Along the Barceloneta Beach, it also leads to a number of restaurants and bars.
On top of offering spectacular views, some bridges have pedestrian pathways. The Brooklyn Bridge in New York City, USA is well-known to attract both citizens and tourists. The path widens in two places, so people tend to congregate and mix there.
Urban parks can also be a good place for adults and kids as they often have playing grounds as well as picnic tables or benches to rest. The Mont Royal Park in Montreal, Canada, is one of my favourite parks. It has the highest spot in the city and attracts a lot of young people, mostly during the summer but throughout the entire year too.
In summary, you should include la passeggiata into your weekly routine mainly because it allows you to:
What are your favourite outdoors spots to take a walk and socialize in your city or elsewhere?
Click on the locations for pictures