The English definition of the word piazza is “an open public area in a town or city (especially in Italy) that is usually surrounded by buildings”. But that’s just where the story begins …
The piazza is quintessentially Italian. It’s an essential hub in both large cities and tiny villages, the heart of a community and an unmistakable anchor for a town’s residents. The piazza is where townspeople come to meet, to talk, to listen, to shop, to argue, to celebrate, to flirt and to dance. It’s where children play soccer and adults play cards, where one can find out the latest news (and hear countless opinions about it), and where families and friends can gather for no reason at all – other than just spending time together.
The piazza holds something everyone, and everyone is welcome. Old and young, rich and poor, tourist and local, people from all different walks of life can be found the piazze of Italy’s cities and villages enjoying everything from operas to local markets to the palpable quiet of an afternoon riposo.
Over the years, as I’ve explored Italy’s cities and villages, I’ve found myself time and time again in a piazza sipping a cappuccino (or a glass of wine), chatting it up with locals, watching a concert, shopping an outdoor market or just watching the world go by.
Called a piazzale when oversized, a piazzetta when tiny and a campo when in Venice, the Italian piazza is an ancient idea that lives on, and to wander through a piazza (or better yet to sit for a while) is without doubt one of the most culturally rich experiences one can have as visitor to Italy.