Italian word of the day: ‘Struscio’

Italian word of the day: 'Struscio'
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash
By the time you figure out what this word means, you might no longer be allowed to do it.

If you've checked the Italian headlines lately, you might have seen news of a crackdown on lo struscio. What is it, and why are some parts of Italy banning it?

The word comes from the verb strusciare, 'to shuffle' or 'to drag' (if you're talking about feet), or 'to rub' (if you're talking about, say, elbows).

That makes uno struscio literally 'a shuffle'. But what three Italian regions have just banned from city centres, in their so-called “anti-struscio” ordinances, isn't walking funny but strolling.

READ ALSO: 'No strolling' in Venice as Italian regions tighten local Covid-19 rules

A struscio is another way of saying a 'stroll' or 'amble'.

Con mio padre faccio lo struscio per le vie principali del borgo.
I go for a stroll with my father through the main streets of the village.

You might assume that the term refers to the slow gait of someone moseying without a destination in mind, but according to the dictionary its origins are more specific than that.

The word refers to an Easter tradition in Naples that sees the faithful visit seven churches on Maundy Thursday, the day before Christians mark the Friday that Christ was crucified.

People would make the tour on foot, dragging their feet slowly – either because they were reflecting on their faith, or simply because they were surrounded by chatty friends and neighbours.

Walking in Naples looks a little different these days. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

The ritual became known as lo struscio, possibly in reference to participants' shuffling feet, or perhaps they would rub up against the rest of the crowd, or maybe even because of the rustling of their stiff Easter finery.

By extension the term refers to any kind of meandering walk, especially a sociable one and especially one you dress up for.

It's like a slightly old-fashioned, southern synonym for una passeggiata, the uniquely Italian form of walking practiced around squares and along seafronts every evening or Sunday afternoon.

And while it may not be possible everywhere in Italy right now, we hope you'll have cause to use the word – and take the stroll it describes – one day again soon.

Do you have an Italian word you'd like us to feature? If so, please email us with your suggestion.

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