Joining the Passegiata in Italy

by Donna on December 15, 2011

It was Lucca where we discovered the passeggiata, and that was mostly by accident. The room we had in the pension was small and not terribly comfortable.  It was November and the staff seemed unconcerned that the heat had not been turned on, and the temperature had suddenly dropped.   After the day’s hassles with the Italian train system (cancellations with no notice, printed schedules unrelated to reality) and our bags, we were cold, tired and hungry.  We craved some comfort.  The only thing to do was find a reasonably priced café and warm up with some hot pasta and wine.

For a city well on the tourist map, it was a little disconcerting to find Lucca’s streets empty in the late afternoon, and many eateries closed.  Apparently the problem was just my timing.  After about an hour, the “empty” streets suddenly began to fill with people of all ages, entering out of every doorway. Stocky grandmothers in dark dresses and sturdy shoes, teenagers in the jean-uniform of youth, fashionable young mothers keeping one eye on roaming youngsters, all the town seemed to be out.

I had read about the passeggiata, but experiencing it is different. It is like a smooth, undulating movement of humanity reading a well-rehearsed and memorized script. We simply followed along, swept up in the kids playing soccer, couples strolling hand in hand, neighbors exchanging gossip.  It was wonderful.  Then, after a couple of hours, the streets began to empty again.  Perhaps it was time for dinner, or to get the children to bed.  In any case, we found a café, had a plate of pasta with vin ordinarie, and decided our little, well-located pension was not so uncomfortable after all.

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