Tag Archives: sense of community

Dom’s Top Five All-Time Favorite Festive Walks

By Dom Nozzi

Walking, in my opinion, is one of the great pleasures of life. That makes sense, as humans are hard-wired to be a walking species. Indeed, we all know that a person notices more architecture and landscaping and street design – and certainly is better able to engage in neighborly conversation with fellow citizens – when walking on a city street compared to driving a car down that street. Walking, in other words, is more HUMAN than driving.

But I have noticed during these days of pandemic in April 2020, where my partner and I do a lot more walking (in part to escape cabin fever!), that even though I tend to get around my neighborhood streets by bicycle, even bicycle travel is not as able to allow me to “smell the roses,” as they say, as when I walk. On many of my “pandemic neighborhood walks,” I find myself regularly thinking that “I’ve never noticed that before in all of my bicycle rides down this street!”

Walking truly is a way to be most human. Most part of your world. Not to mention a great way to be healthy and happy!

I have started calling my neighborhood walks “Smell the Roses Travel.”

Now that I am enjoying walking more than I have ever done so in the past – and doing a lot more of it each week these days! – I’ve given some thought to what my all-time favorite walks happen to be.

Here are my criteria for a great festive walk.

First, the walk should be vibrant, bustling, festive, and therefore entertaining. On a regular basis.

“Festive” is defined as a street that is full of people happily walking or otherwise socializing. The street is often festooned with colors and lights, and occasionally benefits from live street music and other street performers.

Second, the dimensioning of the street – how wide the street is, and how close buildings are to the street – is human-scaled rather than sprawling car-scaled.

Third, the street is flanked by plenty of retail, culture, services, or civic activity – so that the street is regularly energized and enlivened.

Fourth, the street is convivial and slow-speed. When I walk the street, I am likely to engage in conversation with people along the way, and the street design is such that motorists – if not on a car-free “walking street” — are obligated to drive relatively slowly, quietly, and attentively.

Quadrilatero District, Bologna, Italy, Dec 2016 (66)

Using the above criteria, the following are my five all-time favorite festive walks.

 

  1. Via Pescherie Vecchie in the Quadrilatero neighborhood of town center Bologna, Italy during Christmas season.

 

  1. Corso Umberto, Taormina, Italy.

Corso Umberto in Taormina, Dec 8, 2019 (194)

  1. The Ortigia/Siracusa outdoor food market on Via Emmanuele de Benedictis in Sicily. A happy, boisterous walk full of delicious, fresh Italian fish and produce.
  2. La Passeggiata on Via Maqueda in Palermo, and Mercato di Ballaro outdoor food market in Palermo, Italy.
  3. La Ramblas, Barcelona. Barcelona, Dec 5, 2017 (1)

 

In sum, as the Italians would say, “Andiamo per fare una passeggatia!” Which in English proclaims “Let’s go for a walk!”

Honorable Mentions

Monopoli Centro Storico (Old Town)

Bari Centro Storico (Old Town)

Via Tribunali in Centro Storico (Old Town) of Naples/Napoli, Italy

Via di Città and the Piazza del Campo outdoor food market in Centro Storico (Old Town) of Siena, Italy

Corso Italia in Centro Storico (Old Town) of Sorrento, Italy

Centro Storico (Old Town) of Venice, Italy

Marktplatz, Centro Storico (Old Town) Aachen, Germany

Bonn Old Town

Copenhagen Old Town

Dusseldorf Old Town

Madrid Old Town

Sevilla Old Town

Toledo Old Town

Valencia Old Town

Honorable Mention streets part one

Honorable Mention Streets two

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Filed under Transportation, Urban Design, Walking

The Charming Italian Tradition of the Passeggiata – the Nightly Community Stroll

By Dom Nozzi

Each evening, between the hours of 5 pm and 8 pm, Italians take to the streets, to walk and socialize, in a nightly ritual called “La Passeggiatta.” Sociologists label la passeggiata a cultural performance, and on Saturdays and Sundays entire families participate, this frequently being the main social event of the day. Afterward, everyone heads home together for the evening meal.

For Maggie and I, la passeggiata is one of our favorite treats when we visit an Italian town. It is the much-loved evening community stroll, and we love encountering it.

The passeggiata in Palermo mostly occurs on their main walking street (Via Maqueda), and it is an unforgettable, inspiring sight to see. This link is a video I shot as we joined the stroll.

Via Maqueda is a large street, yet like our recent experience in Bologna, la passeggiata so fills the large street that it is a gridlock of pedestrian congestion that one normally only sees with a road clogged with cars.

But in contrast to car congestion, when everyone is angry with everyone else on the road, pedestrian congestion adds to the sociable joy of being on common ground with other people. As Dan Burden once said, cars are happiest when there are no other cars around. People are happiest when there are other people around.

One of many things that makes me proud to be an Italian is this lovely Italian tradition.

As I understand it, the size and popularity of la passeggiata on Via Maqueda has been growing over the years (it became a walking street in June 2018). I believe that is because such an event benefits from being a self-perpetuating virtuous cycle. That is, because humans are a social species and our world tends to isolate us from each other, something that draws people to sociably be with others is so enjoyable, so rare, and such a people-watching treat that others in the city start learning about the enjoyable event and join in. And this growing number of participants induces even more to join as word about it is spread (or people encounter it on their own). And so on and so on.

La passeggiata is, in the words of urban designers, a “social condenser” that most humans seek out to enjoy.

In my view, all cities, to be healthy, should have a nightly passeggiata.

In her book titled The Passeggiata and Popular Culture in an Italian Town,  Giovanna Delnegro states that this custom “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 I can use all that I can get!”

According to Margie Miklas, “one of the original purposes of la passeggiata was to display the charms of young women who were eligible to be married, and in this process, parents of these girls encouraged them to be flirtatious. They wanted their daughters to fare una bella figura, or to look good. This could be one of the reasons that generally people change their clothing after working, and put on their finer attire, dressing to impress, for the evening stroll. The goal is, after all, or to see and be seen.

“In the larger cities such as Rome, some streets are just packed with people, making it nearly impossible for cars to get by. One of these streets, in particular, is Via del Corso, known for its shopping. As people are walking, it is not uncommon for them to stop and do some window shopping. Another favorite spot for everyone to congregate during this evening ritual is the piazza, and Piazza Navona is a wonderfully entertaining spot. Usually in the early evenings, you will find mimes performing, musicians entertaining and vendors demonstrating the latest new items. Piazza di Spagna, or the Spanish Steps, becomes another crowded spot for la passeggiata.

 

“As an integral part of everyday life in Italy, la passeggiata is an endearing custom in Italy, one that I enjoy very much.  Italians like to share things and be with one another, and they like to be outside, as their homes are frequently small. Unless it is raining, you can count on la passeggiata to occur in every city, town, and village in Italy every day of every week.”

 

Source: https://italoamericano.org/story/2015-5-19/passeggiata%20

 

 

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The Death of Celebration

By Dom Nozzi

April 20, 2018

A friend of mine held her annual New Year’s Eve party this past January. Sadly (and puzzling for her, given the large turnout she has had for her party in previous years), there was small turnout of partygoers to her house. To add insult to injury, many of this relatively small group left early.

The event was a relatively weak celebration due to a lack of collective effervescence or a critical mass of a sufficiently large number of attendees. This was not true in past years, where there WAS collective effervescence due to achieving a critical mass of attendees.

Why did this happen?

In my opinion, much of it can be explained by the fact that in places like Boulder, Colorado (where I live), there has been several decades of a societal worship of a low density spread of homes, rather than a compact living arrangement. The resulting geographical spreading out of our homes isolates us from each other, and makes it very difficult to celebrate.su

There are no main street parades anymore. Emblematically, the New York Islanders hockey team “celebrated” their championship a few decades ago by having their fans march pathetically around a shopping mall because there was no sense of place anymore. No main street for a parade. No there there.

Another outcome of our dispersed, low-density development patterns is that it is increasingly rare to find a crowded, happy celebration of friends.

I’ve lived in Boulder for eight years now, and have yet to find a reliably big, crowded, happy annual celebration.

We have, in short, become a Nation of Loners.

Many of us have become auto-bound nomads roaming around looking for the celebration in their low-density suburbs. More than any other event, New Years Eve parties are one of the very few events in our relatively isolated society where we can expect to find a happy social event attended by a great many of our community friends.

For many, it is our only opportunity to experience such collective joy with friends each year. Being so rare and precious, we find that many will engage in “shopping” for the biggest, best and most fun party. After all, we don’t want to blow our only annual chance for a big celebration by attending a “mediocre” party and missing out on THE New Years Eve party that “everyone who is someone” attended.

Many try in advance to assess which party will be “THE” party. “Will Tim have the best bash this year? Laurie? Frank?”

But this is less reliable than another perhaps more common strategy for finding the “best” New Years Eve celebration: Attending what is expected to be the “best,” and making an assessment at that event as to whether this party I am attending truly is turning out to be a great time.

If not, out the door we go to drive to ANOTHER New Years Eve party that is hoped to be great.

Hopefully arriving before the clock strikes 12!

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Filed under Sprawl, Suburbia, Transportation, Urban Design