La Passeggiata: Italy’s Evening Stroll

I’ve long been interested in neighborliness and recently read about the Italian custom of La Passeggiata: the Evening Stroll. Between 5 pm and 8 pm, Italians take to the streets to greet their friends and exchange news and gossip. Women frequently hold hands. Families turn out on weekends, making the stroll the main social event of the day. In a simpler time, eligible young women were encouraged to dress up and flirt as much as possible. Today, people change from their work attire to dress clothes for the stroll. Afterward, everyone goes home for dinner.


Doesn’t that sound lovely and civilized? Like many Americans, I idolize anything European. Add to that my natural tendency as a novelist to romanticize life in general, and I’ve built up quite a picture in my mind. I can see myself in a floaty, chiffon creation with a beautiful handmade wrap casually slung over my shoulders (and unlike real life, it stays in place) chatting amiably with my handsome husband (that part is true) and our witty neighbors. I’m nice and slim because, in this fantasy world, sauntering along in gorgeous clothes supplies all the aerobics I need and eating dinner after 8 pm is no problem.

Ok – let’s get real here. I change clothes after work; into either yoga pants to exercise like crazy if I’m feeling motivated or pajamas if my heart wins out. If the Italians are strolling in cocktail attire between 5 and 8, when do they work out? If they go home and eat after La Passeggiata, who is home cooking while they are out walking? If they eat after 8 pm, what time do they go to bed? When do they have to be at work in the morning?

I’m starting to get suspicious about all of this. Could this be a bit of exaggeration by the tourism folks? I’ll bet La Passeggiata isn’t part of daily life for most people. Just like the Brits aren’t sitting down to high tea every afternoon. But maybe it should be. I’m drawn to the old-fashioned ideal of unhurried time to enjoy my neighbors that La Passeggiata exemplifies.

How about you? Has anyone experienced La Passeggiata?