Wandering, weaving and strolling, they move aimlessly along Corso Vittorio Emanuale until it ends at a set of metal railings affording dramatic views over the Tyrrhenian Sea. Here they congregate, admiring the view, ranking this evening's sunset, I am sure, and chatting all the while before they turn and repeat their walk in the opposite direction.
Some sort of protest. No! This is one of Italy's most enduring rituals and definitely a favourite of ours - the passeggiata. Entire families, young friends, lovers, elderly couples, all take to the streets to greet old friends, talk to shopkeepers, flirt and laugh. From the eternal city, Rome, to beautiful Florence, to the hilltowns of Tuscany, south to Calabria, Italians universally take time in the late day to relax, to stroll their towns and cities, and to meet and greet family and friends.
What I love is the overwhelming sense of community. While we Canadians sit behind closed doors, glued to the depressing evening news, Italians chose to daily pay respect to and appreciate that which matters most, family and community; they have a deep understanding of what is important, what lasts. May they forever keep this tradition alive. Nowhere was this sense of community more evident to us than in the quaint Tuscan town of Volterre during a huge European soccer final. Who would want a North American 'man cave' with its giant plasma screen when you can pull out a tiny TV set into the piazza and watch the game with family and friends? We have so much to learn from the Italians.
Over the years of observation, I have analyzed the four rules of a passeggiata:
1. Between six and eight o'clock in the evening, head for the main corso or liveliest piazza.
2. Walk slowly.
3. Chat with family and friends. Chat with everybody, for that matter.
4. Stop for a gelato or aperitivo.
How easy is that formula?
So there we were. Weary and jet lagged from a long trans Atlantic flight, but ecstatic to be back in the warm hug that is Italy, Jim and I joined hands and merged with the moving community. Let us make a passeggiata - fare una passeggiata.