Saturday, October 18, 2008

La Passeggiata

As evening falls, it's time to put away your guidebook and fanny pack and join in the long-standing Italian tradition of the passeggiata, when Romans turn out in their thousands for a leisurely stroll through the streets and piazzas of the city's principal commercial districts. While there's nothing wrong with dressing like a tourist for the day's sightseeing, you'll want to look your best for the passeggiata. That means no rumpled khakis or souvenir T-shirts, and here in the homeland of Salvatore Ferragamo, a nice pair of shoes is de rigueur. Remember, the passeggiata is not a nature hike, but highly refined urban ritual that's more about seeing and being seen than about putting one foot in front of the other. The pedestrian zone along Via Condotti from Piazza di Spagna to the Via del Corso is perhaps the most popular venue, but strollers also congregate in and around the Piazza Navona, and across the river in Trastevere, a former working-class neighborhood lately reinvented as a trendy nightlight district. Wherever you go, make a point of slowing down your pace, and don't forget to stop along the way for a gelato or glass of wine, preferably at a sidewalk table where you can watch the passing parade.