During our stay in historic Martina Franca, in the heart of Puglia, we inevitably ended up in a bar around 5:00 pm. As we sat and enjoyed a glass of Primitivo, we were fascinated by the groups of immaculately dressed men, mostly elderly, walking slowly in small groups up and down the piazza, chatting away, laughing, stopping when they reached the end and then turning and retracing their steps. What we were witnessing was La Passeggiata.
Stemming from the Italian verb "passeggiare," meaning to stroll or take a slow walk, La Passeggiata is a custom still practiced in Italian cities, towns, and villages. It’s origins date back to a time when eligible young women would dress up and be ‘on display’ to potential husband material who would join them on the walk. Closely chaperoned by the rest of the family.
La Passeggiata signifies the time to “dress to impress” and “to see and be seen”. With Italian social etiquette being steeped in social behaviour and traditions, reputation and consideration of others is important.