The Italian word piazza means a place, usually circular or rectangular, enclosed by city roads; it is an open space where people meet.
Piazza originates from agorà; it was the center of religious and political activities in ancient Greece. During the Roman Empire, the piazza became the place to build monuments and fountains, and over the course of centuries it has become a magnificent example of art and architecture. In the 19th century, intellectuals and artists would meet in the piazza to exchange ideas and new theories; 19th century cultural movements were born in the piazza.
People gather in the piazza to share common joys, and when their favorite soccer team wins there is a great celebration in the piazza. However, sorrow is also shared by crowds in the piazza. Stasera in piazza!
Let’s meet in the piazza…shops, buildings, churches, outdoor cafés… Italians meet in the piazza, walk around the piazza, chat, sip a cappuccino at “Bar della Piazza,” and talk about soccer or politics. Italian piazze are a big tourist attraction, especially for Americans. There aren’t too many piazze in the States and the few that do exist, don’t have the charm of the Italian ones. The piazza is the symbol of Italian life and style.
Who doesn’t know “Caffè Della Pace” in Piazza Del Pantheon in Roma or “I Tre Gradini” in Piazza Navona? Americans going to Italy love to taste the gelato and cappuccino that those cafés serve, particularly if the café is located in a popular and trendy piazza.
Tourists like to experience the lifestyle of the Italian piazza, mix with the locals milling around, watch children at play, and discover the beauty of street corners formed by ancient buildings and churches.
In the piazza there are things to do all year ‘round.
Open markets with stands selling fruit and cheese, clothing, and leather goods, just to mention a few, represent everyday life in Italy. All tourists, especially Americans, enjoy shopping at open markets and look forward to this singular Italian experience while on vacation.
Concerts and religious events all take place in the piazza. At Christmas, every Italian city displays a nativity scene in at least one of its piazze while outdoor stands sell traditional Christmas sweets.
The piazza is the expression of the Italian soul, and I would like to invite readers to come and visit our beautiful country and enjoy the essence of Italian life that only our piazze are able to provide.
See you in piazza!
Riccardo Strano is Director for US & Canada, ENIT (Italian Government Tourist Board)