As part of my time away from the corporate world, I’ll be honest and say that I’m searching for something. I’ve long been fascinated with the idea of slowing down, finding simplicity. I can be a bit “type A”, constantly planning and swinging from one thing to another. Yet, I know I’m happiest when I’m embroiled in something focused, however basic this is. I think I am searching for a simpler life, the simply soft life.
A good friend of mine recently confided over a few glasses of wine, “Emma, I just want a soft life.” This really resonated. I don’t believe that this means “easy” or that it suggests a lack of determination or firepower, but instead that my friend doesn’t want to make things hard any more. They want the opposite of hard, they want soft. I’ve since thought about this a lot and realised I want the same too. So, this blog series “The Simply Soft Life”, will be bit of a deep dive into that. Where can we find simplicity in life? And what does a soft life mean?
So to Italy…..
“Passegiata: a leisurely walk or stroll, especially one taken in the evening for the purpose of socializing.”
What could be more simple than that? I’m currently spending the month of August in Italy and I’m discovering so many aspects of Italian culture that feel life soft life. No more so, than the Passegiata.
What is La Passegiata?
Every evening in Bari, the locals descend….ever so slowly…into the city centre. There’s a promenade along the sea here, which is perfect for a slow stroll. And the wide and long streets of the new town offer prime walking real estate. But the old town (Bari Vecchia), seems to be the hub of the great Italian stroll. You can take a drink whilst you walk, or grab a Gelato. But that’s not the main purpose. It’s not a case of “Let’s go out for a drink dear”, its more “Let us stroll”. There’s a romance to it, especially when you see couples holding hands, young lovers and middle aged married folk in equal measure.
What does La Passegiata feel like?
My favourite thing to see on the Passegiata are the older strollers, who are breaking up their walk by perching on one of the many strategically placed benches. Even better, is to realise that men gather on one bench and their female counterparts on the other and they chat away into the night. This is not planned, there were no text messages or phone calls to arrange a date when this social event would happen. Far from it. Locals just know, that they will go out for a stroll and they will find friends doing the same. A social life without a Doddle poll, absolute bliss.
It makes me think of the innocence of childhood play dates. Back in the day when we could knock on our friends door and seek company to go and play. Nothing was planned, the event was just to go out and see. But the Passegiata is age agnostic, and I for one, hope that I have as good a social life as the 80 year olds of Bari when I am that age.
In researching the meaning of the term “Passegiata” I was surprised to find that many Italians debate some of the descriptions. Specifically, noting that Passegiata is a word that can be used in multiple sentences in the Italian language – meaning to stroll (Passeggiare) – and it is not solely used to refer to the specific pre or post dinner walk. There are also questions about the factual accuracy that the purpose of the Passegiata was historically to parade young women to perspective male suitors (a bit like in Birdgerton!) I’m not Italian and I won’t claim to be an expert on this, but what I can say is that I really enjoy a Passegiata!
My experience of La Passegiata
The first time I joined it, I felt like an outsider, as though I was watching something happen and I didn’t belong. I felt like I should be “doing something”, I’d reach for my phone or wonder if I should buy a snack. But I’ve eased myself in now. And realised that if I sit, just still on a bench, or I lean against a wall and just “be”, then I am part of it. Occasionally a local will offer me a smile or a nod. I am on the Passegiata baby!
This is not a uniquely Italian phenomenon. Upon visiting Havana many years ago I remember witnessing a similar thing along the promenade. Young couples taking a stroll and enjoying the sunset. During the Covid Lockdowns, I believe that many British people also developed a bit of a Passegiata habit. I know I did. The highlight of my day undoubtedly became the stroll around the park with a friend in the evening once we had both finished our Zoom calls for the day. But the Italian’s do it differently.
How can we adopt this to support the soft life?
So, how can I bring this into my simply soft life? Every new city I go, I’m going to head out in the evening just to see. Who knows what I will find? And if I ever notice myself racing about in future and not taking in my surroundings, I’m going to remember my Passegiata pace and take things slow!
Read more Soft Life
The Simply Soft Life 3: Creating
This is the third instalment of a series of articles focused on finding “The Simply Soft Life”. This time, I’m reflecting on the art of “creating” and the role that creativity can play in life.…
Why Yoga Is Perfect for Digital Nomads
I’ve been practising yoga for 18 years. Which makes me feel very old! In that time, I’ve taken yoga classes in countless studios. Some stand out, like a Silent Disco Yoga in Sloane Square or…
The Simply Soft Life 2: Minimalist Living
Onwards with my quest to find the Simply Soft Life and as part of my new nomadic lifestyle, I’m trying my hand at minimalist living. It’s really not something that comes naturally to me, in…
USEFUL LINKS FOR FLIGHTS, ACCOMMODATION AND TRANSPORT
CHECK LATEST FLIGHTS
ACTIVITIES TO CONSIDER
FOLLOW US ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Please note that some links on our website are partnered with affiliates. Using an affiliate links does not make it more expensive for you to purchase. We receive a small commission whenever you buy something which in turn allows us to keep writing independent travel guides and your support is greatly appreciated.