Each time I visit a new town in Italy, I make my first stop in the main piazza, to get a feel for the place. Every village, town and city has at least one main piazza and many minor ones. The main piazza is the heart and soul of a town. It’s where the people gather to talk, discuss politics, celebrate the feast days and holidays or just sit and enjoy some moments of far niente—doing nothing.
This is also where you’ll find the main church, il Duomo and possibly the mayor’s offices in a beautiful historical building. Every piazza has a few coffee bars and restaurants that put their tables outside when the weather permits. Those tables will be filled with lively families if it’s sunny on a Sunday afternoon.
On different days of the week, various piazzas will host the open markets where vendors are selling everything from clothes and furniture to fruits, vegetable and cheeses. Throughout the year, the main piazza is the place to find live music, car shows or the finish line for a bicycle or foot race.
In the large cities like Rome and Florence, the famous piazzas are impressive with their fabulous fountains by Bernini or amazing sculpture by Michelangelo (copies, actually, but still amazing). However, when you visit a big city, be sure to seek out a small, minor piazza where you’ll get a break from the crowds and a better view of the everyday life in an Italian city. This is also where you’ll find some great restaurants and some of the best gelato shops.
Whenever I travel in Italy, I always make time to savor the piazza.
This is the place where I can slow down, grab something to eat or drink al fresco or just sit on a bench and watch the world go by.