About Piazzas, Siesta, and More Italian/American Contrasts

When walking through Rome or looking at a map of the city, it seems like every street leads to a piazza. No matter where you go, you are bound to end up in at least three along the way. Piazzas are basically town squares and while Rome has them in abundance, each one manages to have unique features. Some are more extravagant while others are subtler. Sometimes I don’t even realize that I am walking through a piazza until I try to look for a street sign and glance up to discover that I have stumbled upon yet another Roman town square.

The sheer number of piazzas is a testament to the rich history of Rome and a sign of how many changes and face lifts the city has gone through. Different people have felt the need to create piazzas to commemorate one thing or another and over the years, and Rome has had a lot to commemorate. By visiting a piazza such as Piazza Navona, you can really feel some of the history and extravagance of Rome. Piazza Navona is home to the famous Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, or the Fountain of Four Rivers. It is a hallmark of Baroque architecture and one of Bernini’s most famous works. To accompany this large fountain are two others, both in the Baroque style. Surrounding the fountains are artists displaying their paintings and tourists taking that much-needed gelato break. Stopping in a piazza is an opportunity to appreciate a part of Rome while resting and taking a break from the taxing business of exploring the city. Piazzas give tourists a chance to see a site while relaxing – a staple of the Italian culture.

While Rome is a city that demands to be explored, it is also one that demands its rest. There is a constant flow of people walking the streets but the local shopping scene deadens between the hours of 1 and 4 as Romans take that time to be with their families and eat a relaxing afternoon meal. They say that Rome wasn’t built in a day – well, that’s probably because everyone took a three-hour siesta in the middle of the day. In America businesses view time as money. Every hour is another chance to further profits. Closing up shop in the afternoon is unheard of; after all, that is a prime shopping time. At home, the afternoon is when I am most productive: I shop, do homework, and run miscellaneous errands. Here, afternoons are viewed as a time for leisure and pleasure. Italians are a surprisingly laid-back society that places family time ahead of work. Of course, not all Italian businesses are like this and not all Italians have this mind-set. However, most of the little shops and natives I have observed seem to share this mentality.

By sitting in the famous Piazza Navona, I observed this. A lot of the restaurants and shops immediately surrounding the piazza were open during siesta to attract eager tourists with fat wallets, but by venturing a few streets away from the bustling area you would find more local, artisan shops that shut down during those hours. A walk through Termini would make this restful mentality seem like a myth, but a hunt for a local shop open between 1 and 4 proves that Italians place a high importance on leisure and relaxing. I appreciate rest as much as the next person, but I’m not sure I could ever become accustomed to that part of the Italian culture.

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2 thoughts on “About Piazzas, Siesta, and More Italian/American Contrasts

  1. I completely agree with you post! Especially because, like you said, a lot of time I do not even realize I am in a piazza until I look at a street sign. I also loved how you said, “They say that Rome wasn’t built in a day – well, that’s probably because everyone took a three-hour siesta in the middle of the day.” haha because it is so true!

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