The Italian Piazza: The Heart and Soul of Italy

April 23, 2012

Every town in Italy has a Piazza; the epicenter of town living where the steady flow of action breathes energy into an otherwise monotonous existence. My town square was no different!

The Piazza was the place women gathered to sit and gossip. Eyes always focused on the beautiful Lea, swaying her hips past Don Aldo and his friends, as she made her way towards her lover’s white Fiat Cinquecento (Fiat 500). Their heads turning in unison to stare, lost in scandalous thought before returning to their game of cards. And I would sit on the cool marble steps of my grandmother’s home and watch in fascination, until old signora Angelina would begin yelling from her balcony to the passersby below. This was an evening ritual that took place with such methodical ease that should anything ever interrupt it, I shudder to think what might happen. 

Music from the jukebox outside the local bar always brought my attention to the teenagers huddled inside playing gettoni (table soccer) and singing the latest Festivalbar hits. Festivalbar was a singing competition that took place each summer in the most important squares in Italy. I guess you could say it was Italy’s version of American Idol, and the summer hits would play in every bar across Italy.

Men and women would stroll up and down the piazza in braccietto (arm in arm). I could never understand how they didn’t tire of going back and forth for hours each evening discussing and arguing the same issues. Especially when it came to soccer or politics, their loyalty was unwavering.     

The bar was always buzzing with the sound of people chatting, as the bartenders busily prepared cold drinks, ice cream cones, and espressos. Young couples zoomed by on Vespa's enjoying the nice summer breeze. It was a scene I was unaccustomed to in Canada, one I sat and cherished every evening before heading out to join my friends for a fun filled adventure.

Every evening we would leave town and set out to discover the splendors of our region. I experienced so many memorable moments: midnight swims in the ocean, bonfires on the beach, dancing under the stars, town-hopping, and my personal favorite - the late night cornetto! This delicious Italian croissant comes in many versions and its wonderful aroma is not one you easily forget. Each night I made sure to devour a freshly baked cornetto with warm chocolate oozing out of it before heading back to the piazza.  

At night the town became as still as a bath, and my friends and I would gather in the piazza and listen to Gianni play his guitar. Our favorites were Italian oldies that everyone sang along too. The star filled sky, warm breeze, and sweet melodies would lull us all into a state of utter relaxation before heading home for the night. Always looking forward to tomorrow, when the ritual would begin again…

Visiting Italy’s most famous piazzas is a must when visiting this magnificent country. But, also remember that each piazza in Italy, big or small, is uniquely beautiful!

Piazza Del Duomo, Milano

Piazza San Marco, Venice

Piazza Del Duomo, Florence

Piazza Di Spagna, Rome

Piazza Navona, Rome

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