La passeggiata (the Italian stroll)
Above: Una passeggiata in Brindisi (Apulia). Photo via Where to Go in Italy.
As the workday winds down and the hot summer sun begins to loosen its grip on the local central piazza, Italians take to the streets to perform a time-honored social ritual called la passeggiata (lah PAHS-seh-JAH-tah).
From young lovers to elderly couples to entire extended families, the locals take a leisurely stroll arm-in-arm to see and be seen. La passeggiata is performed in some of the most famous main streets and piazze in the world (from Piazza Spagna in Rome to Piazza San Marco in Venice), but even in the smallest villages, the local population comes out for a pre-dinner strut.
This is a time for catching up with friends, showing off new babies, and hearing the gossip about town. It is also customary in the larger cities to incorporate aperitivo into the passeggiata.
Seaside towns in the summer have an especially lively passeggiata. The hours can to extend to midnight, with the second passeggiata taking place after dinner. Children (and adults!) devour a fresh gelato while feeling the warm sea breeze and enjoying people-watching in the vacationing crowd.
If you want to fare la passeggiata like an Italian, leave your fanny packs at home. Put on your flashy new clothes, best cologne, and join the crowd!