“The magic of the street is the mingling of the errand and the epiphany, and no such gardens seem to have flourished in Italy, perhaps because they were unneeded. For the Italian pre-dinner stroll – the passaggiata – many towns close down their main streets to wheeled traffic. The street is the pivotal social space, for meeting, debating, courting, buying and selling.”
Quoted from: Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking, pp. 178-179. http://www.amazon.com/Wanderlust-History-Walking-Rebecca-Solnit/dp/0140286012
Solnit quotes Edwin Denby: “In ancient Italian towns the narrow main street at dusk becomes a kind of theatre. The community strolls affably and looks itself over. The girls and the young men, from fifteen to twenty-two, display their charm to one another with lively sociability. The more grace they show the better the community likes them. In Florence or in Naples, in the ancient city slums the young people are virtuoso performers and they do a bit of promenading anytime they are not busy.” Of young Romans, he wrote, “Their stroll is as responsive as if it were a physical conversation.”
Solnit’s quote from: “In ancient Italian town the narrow main street”: Edwin Denby, Dancers, Buildings and People in the Streets, introduction by Frank O’Hara (New York: Horizon Press, 1965), 183.