Tuesday, March 11, 2014

La vita nelle strade (Street life)

Bikers and walkers at the daily market in Piazza della Frutta, Padua
Maybe the best thing about Italy is the street life, what I like to call la cultura delle piazze (piazza culture). This is something I am very familiar with from living in Latin America, where life is similar: At almost any hour, people out and about, walking around, toting groceries, going to work or class, and eating gelato (in the evenings people are lined up for it!). There are so many benefits to this lifestyle!

1. No driving! I totally LOVE that I can walk everywhere I need to go. There is absolutely no need for a car here and, obviously, I am not the only one without one. Everyday I see tons of people, young and old (and very-old!), doing errands on foot or by bike -I even saw a nun on a bike last weekend! It's great exercise (almost everyone here is fit and trim), and a wonderful way to learn my way around town. Bonus: the weather has been awesome, but if it rains, you just walk under the portici (porticos).

2. Social life. When you are out walking in a small city like Padua, it is likely you will run into people you know. I don't know many people here yet, but I clearly remember that after living in Concepci√≥n, Chile, for a while (where I also walked everywhere), I would see up to 10 people I knew on my daily routes: maybe 5-6 that I recognized from some aspect of life, 2-3 that I was acquainted with through work/study, and 1-2 direct friends or colleagues. Here, I see people greeting each other on the street, and I know one day I will be so happy when I can do the same.  

3. Mercati, e altre cose da mangiare (markets, and other things to eat).
An open-air cafe in Piazza della Frutta
With piazza culture, you are not limited to buying groceries at the supermarket. The outdoor markets are open here daily, in Piazza della Frutta and Piazza delle erbe, among others. Shopping at markets, I can get fresh fruits and veggies at good prices and, more importantly, practice Italian!

Now that it's spring, all the cafes and restaurants have tables outside, so you can people-watch while you eat. As I already mentioned, gelato is a critical outdoor food. On Sunday evening, I happened to be in Piazza dei Signori, and had to wait in a huge line for gelato! It seemed like every family in Padova was out with their kids, getting gelato, walking around the piazza. I chose pistachio… Yum!  

This picture needs no explanation… I might just have to run out now to get some gelato! 
All the walking can be tiring (e.g., carrying groceries around), but overall, it is the best thing about Padua. Outdoor time, fresh air, and being able to watch and listen to people all around really enriches the quality of life. Throw in a gelato and, veramente, quest'√® la dolce vita! 

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