The passeggiata is a central feature of afternoon life in Italy. Literally the passeggiata (pass-ah-jah’-tah) is the stroll that many Italians take between the hours of 4 and 6 p.m.
There is more to it than exercise. Italians gather together to talk, frequently, endlessly. If you could put a sound meter on the country, you would hear a constant undercurrent of conversation, a sea of noise that reaches high tide about 5 p.m. I once asked the Captain, “What do they talk about all the time?” He replied, “Food, family,” to which I would add also weather, politics and some good general gossip.
In Rapallo the passeggiata proper occurs on two streets: Via Mazzini (a pedestrian shopping street) for the young people, and along the Lungomare for the older people who, it must be said, frequently take their passeggiata sitting down on a bench. In passeggiata people amble along, looking and being looked at, stopping to speak to acquaintances or to admire a new baby in a stroller.
The passeggiata gives you an opportunity to strut your stuff, and to check out what everyone else is wearing. It gives you an opportunity to see your neighbors, see if they look well or poorly, see who has a new frock, a new dog (a popular accessory in Rapallo), or new tattoos.
So much of life in Italy is lived outside. The weather co-operates, of course, especially in a seaside town like Rapallo. But the passeggiata takes place in every town, every day (unless it’s raining of course; you wouldn’t want to melt, would you??). Living quarters tend to be small, so it’s very pleasant to take oneself out to the larger world, and all the more pleasant if you find a friend with whom to walk arm-in-arm down the Lungomare, admiring or dissing all the others, and catching up on the local news of the day.