The Sociology of the Italian Piazza

The outdoor urban living room, more formally known as the Italian Piazza is an essential part of every Italian city integrating history, architecture, family and friends and a daily sense of community. The piazza is oftentimes made up of a complex system of religious buildings and monuments, governmental offices, and private commercial spaces offering the area ample resources for quotidian life. The piazza strengthens the local identity while reaffirming the cultural past of a people rooted in centuries of history.

The piazza is nothing without its inhabitants. Without people, the piazza is nothing but a large open space; but with people, the piazza envelopes its population in a welcoming embrace. The masses are ornaments for this tree of life, decorating an otherwise lacklustre place. Voices and music boom throughout the outdoor living room creating a jovial atmosphere. There is a truly interesting interplay between those who watch and those who partake in the piazza scene and in this sense, the piazza could be considered a never-ending play. There are the actors who lay in complete harmony with the audience indulging them with endless hours of people.  At any time of day, any time of year, one can observe the daily happenings that constitute the heart of the Italian city. Already at 5 AM the barista is opening his doors to prepare coffee for the morning crowd. The first customers paired with a newspaper in tow are the Nonne and Nonni who position themselves at an outdoor table ready to observe everyone and everything that passes in the cool, yet sunny, early morning hours. In the afternoon, Vespas zip by, and bicyclists with wind in their hair ring their bells to acknowledge a friend of a friend. As lunch time rolls in, the bells from the Duomo toll thirteen times and the city slowly comes to a halt for two hours. The shops are closed and there is quiet everywhere but in the piazza’s bar where friends meet for lunch before returning to the hustle and bustle of the working day. There are bambini and Nonnegiovani and cani, who stroll the streets with no destination in mind if only to bump into someone they know. The Nonni sit at the circolo smoking incessantly over a heated game of cards until it is time to return home for dinner. During this time, the piazza comes to a full stop, almost a mass exodus, but it is only a lull before the after dinner storm.

The piazza lets its inhabitants return to a smaller, more private city – the home. But the piazza patiently endures the hiatus until about 10:30PM when the masses again roll in hoping to achieve respite from the sweltering summer heat or to circulate the blood after a bone chilling winter day. So, then, what is it that attracts the citizens day after day to the same place? A sense of normalcy, community and deep rooted tradition. Not much has changed over the centuries in Italian piazzas. The piazza was the fabric of life which wove together all walks of life from the poorest peasant to grandest of the Medici and it remains this way today. The piazza is a place for all people to come together whether it be in protest of social or political reform, a quiet afternoon stroll, or yearly religious festivities. The piazza also reminds citizens where they have come from, walking amongst history every day. And for this reason, perhaps, Italians enjoy their roots in a way Americans yet cannot. The cobblestone once walked upon by nobles and great artists is now the tromping ground for anyone who wishes to enter the city. There is an electricity that pulses through your body, knowing that someone great walked on the same street as you do now, or who prayed in the same church to the same God.  The piazza is for everyone and it unites people under one common idea: to engage in and enjoy the pleasures that life has to offer with those with whom one shares the greatest urban living room.

Windows On Italy offers some of the best apartments located right in Florence’s main piazzas, at the heart of the action.

Why not spend your next vacation in the heart of Florence in Piazza Duomo at the Artemisia apartment? With its breathtaking views from the windows, you will never want to go home and will surely experience all of Florence’s traditions and history. There is an interesting contrast of the modern interior and the historic backdrop allowing you to enjoy all the comforts of modern living while experiencing the true open air museum of Florence.

Moving towards Piazza della Signoria, another main piazza in the historic city centre of Florence, the Piazza Signoria View apartment has yet another jaw dropping backdrop once you open the window. Being just steps from the Galleria degli Uffizi, this apartment, decorated in classic Florentine style, has a strategic location, just steps from all of the main monuments and famous shopping areas.

Crossing the Arno onto the other side, called the Oltrarno, you will find the Casanova apartment located in Piazza Santo Spirito.  The name “Oltrarno” literally means “beyond the Arno” and this neighborhood perhaps displays the true character of Florence and in general is slightly quieter, greener, and more relaxed than the other districts of Florence. Traditionally an artisans’ quarter, the Oltrarno still boasts many lovely antique shops and artisans’ studios (particularly furniture and leather-workers) and Via Maggio remains the focus of Florence’s thriving antiques trade.

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About the author
Jennifer Native New Yorker, Adopted Italian

A Native New Yorker living in Italy with her husband and dachs...

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