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Italian word of the day: 'Passeggiata'

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Italian word of the day: 'Passeggiata'
12:07 CET+01:00
It's not just a word. In Italy, it's an art form.

It sounds simple enough, but I really screwed this up when I first came to Italy. So let's talk about the passeggiata.

Fare una passeggiata means to go for a walk or stroll.

È andato a fare una passeggiata.

- She went out for a walk.

- Andiamo per fare una passeggatia

- Let’s go for a walk

- Lui fa una passeggiata ogni sera.

- He takes a walk every evening.

But when Italians talk about la passeggiata, they’re not usually talking about just any old walk.

The passeggiata is a time-honoured tradition in which the whole town participates, on Sunday evenings and holidays, if not most nights of the week. Usually while dressed up in their fanciest designer clothing, and shoes which are not made for walking at all.

As evening falls, wherever you are in Italy, everyone comes out onto the main streets of the city or town, usually around the main piazza, through the centro storico (old town) or along the lungomare (seafront).

As one dictionary describes it, una passeggiata is a “traditional evening stroll in the central plaza by a town's residents.”

It’s a word that’s very much associated with leisure and ease, and the feeling of having plenty of time.

This was a very new concept for me. Back home in the UK, Sunday walks were always a long, exhausting and muddy affair, possibly involving being marched up a small mountain. They were definitely not glamorous.

But you can forget about trudging through any mud on la passeggiata.

in fact, just forget walking - everyone’s too busy checking out who’s with who, and who’s wearing what, and of course stopping for an aperitivo and a chat.

Italians tell me the movement and fresh air helps with digesting an enormous Sunday lunch, or working up an appetite before dinner.

But most of all it’s a chance to see and be seen, show off your new relationship or designer handbag, and generally fare la bella figura, or look really good. I guess it's how people used to show off before social media was invented.

My grandma might call this kind of leisurely walk a promenade. And actually the noun can also mean a promenade, as in a long street.

- una passeggiata alberata

- a tree-lined promenade

And it can be used figuratively to mean a “walk in the park” or a “cakewalk”

- Questo esame non sarà una passeggiata.

- This exam won’t be a walk in the park.

So, when an Italian friend suggests “andiamo per fare una passeggiata”, you probably don’t want to grab your oldest, scruffiest trainers and scrape your hair back, as I did on my first week in Italy, thinking “hey, I’m only going for a walk.”

Do you have a favourite Italian word you'd like us to feature? If so, please email our editor Jessica Phelan with your suggestion.


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