Zen and the Art of Piazza Parties

Italians love a good party.  In the summer when the heat of the day gives way to the coolness of the evening, Italians come out and gather.  The piazza concept is perfect for this, and I’m pretty sure that’s why they were invented.  Piazzas are places to conduct business – get your prescription filled, grab a pizza, get your meat for dinner – and places for socializing.  They’re where the old men gather and trade stories, catching up on the news of the day.  They’re where visitors and locals alike pause to have a drink, a gelato, or just people watch.  When you visit a town, you will stroll around the city, but you will stop in the piazza.  One of our Italian friends was visiting us in Atlanta and he asked where people meet each other.  Say you were going to go out with friends – where do you meet?  We were a little puzzled by this question.  You meet at the place you’re going or you meet at each other’s homes.  Where else would you meet?  The piazza, of course.  He couldn’t understand life without a piazza.  For this seemingly chaotic culture, piazzas give structure.

They’re also great places for parties.  No matter how small the town, you can be sure at some point there will be a party in the piazza.  We try to stay up on all the goings on around and one good way to do this is by reading all the posters that advertise events.  There are several places around town designated for posters and judging by the number of postings I would say there’s money to be had in poster-putting-up.  The event posters are right next to the funeral notices.  Who needs a newspaper?  Another great way to find out what’s going on where is to hang around the piazza.  I don’t know how these people know about these events, but they do and they’re more than happy to pass it on.

We saw a poster for a series of concerts in Citerna.  Citerna is a teeny, tiny hill town near here.  Their piazza overlooks the Tiber Valley and offers one of the best views around.  This week’s concert was “Shades of Chet” – a tribute to Chet Baker.  So we went.  These things usually don’t start until 9:00 or so.  You certainly wouldn’t want to rush through dinner to make the concert.  We arrived at about 9:00 and snagged a seat on the stairs in front of the piazza.  The concert started at about 9:45.  Times, like lines on the road, are mere guideposts and are not to be taken literally.  It was great.  The band was really good and families were out, kids were playing, people were drinking and eating, and generally everyone was having a great time.  And the population of Citerna quadrupled for about two hours.

I love a good piazza party.  There’s nothing better on a summer evening than to be under the stars enjoying music, sipping wine, and being part of this wonderful culture that celebrates life in such simple ways.


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