La passeggiata or the evening stroll is a daily ritual in cities, towns and villages all over Italy. While holidaying in Italy you might witness or even take part in the stroll before realising that it is one of Italy’s most enduring traditions. As day turns to dusk Italians turn out in their thousands from houses shuttered to keep out the daily heat, to walk the walk, to see and to be seen, and most of all to socialise.
It is during the hours of la passeggiata, roughly 5-8pm, that the queues are longest at the gelaterias and prime spots at the sidewalk cafes are occupied.
La passeggiata is a time-honoured tradition marking the end of the workday or on the weekend becoming the focus of the day with Italians dressing up smartly and stylishly for the walk. Perhaps the only noticeable change in recent years is you may observe many walking with a gelato limone in one hand and a mobile phone in the other!
In the cities, the passeggiata takes place along the main pedestrianised streets, although it can also be observed while sipping an aperitivo in a lovely piazza. The centro storico of just about every Italian city has restricted car access making the passeggiata safe and enjoyable. Some examples of classic passeggiata routes are Verona’s Via Mazzini, Turin’s Via Roma, the narrow streets around Florence’s Piazza della Signoria and perhaps most uniquely, up on the treelined ancient city walls of Lucca, which offers the added bonus of Alpine vistas.
In Rome the most famous walking street is the Via del Corso. If you take a seat in one of the fashionable cafes along the street and order a bicchiere di vino rosso you might get a glass of Morellino di Scansano, now ‘the wine of choice in the chicest enoteche (wine bars) of Rome.’ Morellino is a clone of the chianti grape Sangiovese and comes from the Maremma in the very south of Tuscany. This area was once banditridden and malaria infested swampland (maremma) until Mussolini completed the drainage work, which had been started by the Medici and then abandoned long ago. Now it boasts a growing tourist industry drawn to its magnificent national park and some of the finest beaches in Italy. The town of Scansano and the Maremma are only a two-hour plus journey from Rome, which accounts for the Roman love affair with the area’s beaches, cuisine including local boar, and its unique wine.
Morellino di Scansano, produced in a microclimate similar to that of Sicily, is lighter, fruitier, more perfumed and less expensive than its more famous cousin Chianti and is best drunk while the wine is still young.
Recommendation: MediciRiccardi Morellino di Scansano, 2014, LIDL €9.99.