The Healthy Italian

Il rito della passeggiata è un costume italiano, un fenomeno della vita sociale che ancora oggi – nonostante i ritmi frenetici, il traffico assillante e mancanza di tempo libero – ci contraddistingue. In ogni grande o piccola città, la gente ama lasciare la macchina e passeggiare il sabato pomeriggio per guardare le vetrine e andare a prendere un caffè, oppure ogni giorno o la domencia nei piccoli centri prima o dopo pranzo per stimolare o favorire la digestione. È un’abitudine che offre una scusa in più per vestirsi bene, vedere e farsi vedere. “Facciamo due passi” o “facciamo quattro passi” è un’espressione comune nel vocabolario di qualsiasi italiano ed una delle abitudini di cui si sente maggiormente la mancanza quando si vive nelle grandi metropoli statunitensi, dove non sempre passeggiare è possibile. Da non sottovalutare sono i benefici effetti apportati al corpo ed alla salute, in generale, da questa attività fisica amati dagli Italiani di qualunque età. As the sun begins setting on the piazzas in cities and villages across Italy, an evening ritual is about to begin – a long-standing tradition that some sociologists have labeled a “cultural performance.” La passeggiata, the evening stroll, is a vital part of the Italian lifestyle. This month’s topic: La Passeggiata

As a marker of the end of the workday, Italians go home to freshen up anche di fare la passeggiata; a time to dress to impress (la bella figura) and to see and be seen. The attention to la bella figura starts early in life, so this code of etiquette is ubiquitous in the Italian lifestyle.
One of the original purposes of la passeggiata was for eligible young women to display their charms to attract a young man, making la passeggiata a socially-sanctioned opportunity to flirt encouraged by la famiglia. La passeggiata is also important once a couple has found each other. This is when they are able to walk together publicly, letting the townspeople know they are interested in each other, but of course, never without a chaperone.
La passeggiata of a courting couple is a community event overseen by relatives and townspeople alike.
After our family had settled in Cleveland, my Uncle Joe (Peppino) returned to his birth town of Civitanova del Sannio to find a bride. Zia Nella told me that when they were on their passeggiata, there was never a moment when they could be alone! If it wasn’t an aunt walking behind them surreptitiously keeping an eye on them, there were children riding their bicycles, men sitting outside the local bar sipping red wine or un aperitivo and women walking arm in arm sharing the latest news and gossip. There was no chance for privacy. But, that is the whole point of la passeggiata, it is intended to be a social time shared with friends, family and even strangers.
La passeggiata is typically between 5 and 8 p.m. before Italians come together at home for their evening meal. After the meal in summer months when it is still daylight, Italians step out to catch the sunset, have a gelato, burn some dinner calories (helping to maintain la bella figura), and slow down in preparation for a restful sleep.
The custom of la passeggiata can benefit us in many ways. It’s good exercise, it’s a way to show off our bella figura, it’s a chance to get out of our houses to socialize with friends and family, and it reinforces our sense of belonging.
Many people laze on the couch after a big meal staring at the big screen, allowing fat to get deposited on the waistline, arteries to get clogged and heart conditions to ensue. When I was growing up, after a typical Sunday dinner with our nonni, we took a walk outdoors, primarily to get away from the old folks, but also out of necessity to help digest our meal.

Tip of the month:
Start walking in your neighborhood, not only to keep your weight in check but also to socialize with your neighbors and to feel a sense of community.
Walking is one of the best and easiest forms of exercise anyone can do, young and old, obese and underweight. It’s the first marker of recovery after surgery and a key part of rehabilitation. No equipment needed! Just your two legs, a little motivation and an “inquiring” mind. is all it takes.

Please send your questions about nutrition, exercise or mindfulness to Diana at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. “If I don’t know the answer, I will find it.”
Diana Lucarino-Diekmann, has been working in the field of Health and Fitness since 1980, helping others achieve optimal health and happiness. She has a BA in Exercise Physiology, as well as Pilates and Yoga certifications and an extensive knowledge of nutrition and disease. Having taught almost every type of exercise class, she now specializes in Yoga, Pilates, meditation, and mindfulness, not only in exercise but also in life.
The contents of “The Healthy Italian” are for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or your personal health.