|Not the best illustration of the passeggiata, but a view from a cafe near Santa Maria Novella.|
Nearly every Italian town takes an evening passeggiata (or "walk"), where people of all ages congregate in the streets and piazzas.
I first began to think about the passeggiata while Kevin and I were in Verona. We were sitting at an outdoor cafe table sipping that wonderful Italian liquer, limoncello. Sweet, but also tart with lemon, it is the perfect drink for generating a nostalgic mood.
Once, I would have wanted nothing more than to be part of that evening tradition, strolling the pedestrian ways, listening to the fountains and musical interludes of street musicians. But now, I just observe.
I see the young mom, pushing a stroller, proud of her little one and pleased with her husband, as she looks up at him by her side.
I see the older teenage girls--the ones who know they are pretty, who move and toss their hair in a casual, but practiced way. And I see the pre-teen girls who do not yet know they are attractive, and who sometimes move awkwardly, but who, in their coltish ways, are often much more beautiful than their older sisters. And I see the plain girls and hope, at some point soon, they learn that being kind brings its own loveliness, and that they too can join in the dance.
I see the grandmothers who move slowly, making their way down the alleys with their canes, smiling at both the young ones and their own middle-aged children.
Watching this river of humanity, I feel I know them. For I understand the look of the young mother and the anxiety of the awkward teen. I am close enough to the elderly woman to have a hint of what she also must have in her heart. That's because now I know something I didn't know before. I have realized I do not have to be out there moving in the throng. I can simply watch. I know that long after my seat at the cafe is empty, the passeggiata will go on. Seasons will come, and seasons will go, and other people will be sitting here. But there is comfort in that thought. It is enough.
Note: Of course, there were men taking part in the passeggiata as well, and I wouldn't want anyone to think I excluded them from my concern. But as a female, I certainly understand girls and women much better, and that's why I focused on them.