Drinking Italian: La Passeggiata
"Vuoi fare una passeggiata con me?"
Walk Like an Italian
“La Passeggiata reinforces a sense of belonging. Individuals greet their friends and acquaintances while sharing all the latest news and gossip. Women frequently hold hands, walking together in what appears as an informal parade. As they mark the end of the workday, men can be heard to say ‘Andiamo a fare qualche vasca’, or ‘let’s go do some laps.’ Not only is the custom of la passeggiata a social bonding experience, but also good exercise, and each of us can use all that we can get.”
—Giovanna Delnegro, The Passeggiata and Popular Culture in an Italian Town
La Passeggiata, the Italian tradition of enjoying the evening with a long, leisurely stroll through the streets of your town, village, or city’s centro storico (“historic center”), usually occurs between 5 p.m. through 8 p.m. on weeknights (the weekend version is often the main event of the day). There is typically no destination in mind, and many will make several circuits walking to one end and back over again. It’s a way for some gentle exercise before heading back home or to a trattoria for dinner, but this public ritual also serves as a social hour—a time for people watching, flirting, light gossip, nodding to strangers, stopping to talk with friends, complimenting families with newborn babies in strollers, or discussing that week’s soccer match. And there’s often light fortification, stopping for a caffè, gelato, or aperitivo.
I’ve taken part in this custom during my trips to Italy, in places like Milan, along the canals and bridges of the Navigli; the Piazza del Campo in Siena; Quattro Canti in Palermo; and the Piazza del Popolo in Ascoli Piceno. (The lead photo at the top of this dispatch was taken in Ascoli Piceno when I was strolling with Ed Anderson and brothers Matteo and Mauro Meletti. Mauro paused to say hello to a beautiful woman approaching us on a bicycle, and that moment felt like vintage postcard come to life.)
La Passeggiata is also the name of a new aperitivo drink recently created by Toby Cecchini of Brooklyn’s The Long Island Bar that was inspired by, and captures the spirit of, this endearing and enduring Italian custom.
Drink Like an Italian
I’m very fortunate to live just down the block from The Long Island Bar, one of the best bars in New York, if not the world.
In my recent oral history of LIB I wrote for VinePair, I spoke to owners Toby Cecchini and Joel Tompkins along with current and past bartenders, drink writers, neighborhood regulars, and even the guy who lives above the bar whose apartment is illuminated by the glow of the bar’s historic neon sign who all feel the same way.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to Last Call to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.