It doesn’t take long to fall into the seductive way of life in Perugia. Like the rituals that go along with having a meal. You don’t just go out to eat here. Dining is more like courting, something to be done slowly and thoughtfully. It begins late in the afternoon with the fare la passeggiata when everyone in town—or so it seems—dresses up and goes for a stroll down the Corso Vannucci.
What do you do on your passeggiata? Well, there is a lot of window-shopping, though if you are a couple of young girls, that can just be an excuse to bump into some cute boys who might suggest you all sit down at a nearby outdoor cafe for an espresso or a spritz. But you don’t have to be young to take part in the passeggiata. You’ll find elderly women all dressed up walking arm in arm, chatting all the while, and kids licking gelato while holding on to their parents hands, and babies in strollers being admired by old friends and strangers both.
The passeggiata is the foreplay before cena, the evening meal, for in Italy food is more than just something to chow down because you’re hungry. Food and its enjoyment are part of life. Like sex. And Italians are just as passionate about it (and that, perhaps, is why they have pastries called sospiri—sighs—and bugie—lies—and, of course, the chocolate baci or kisses).
So I’ve gotten into the habit of putting on a fresh shirt and polishing my shoes and joining the passeggiata along Corso Vannucci, eventually stopping at someplace like the Bar Centrale in the plaza, where there are always tables full of beautiful men and women, where I’ll order an aperitivo made with Aperol, a bitter orange and rhubarb liqueur, and proseco.
I’ll slowly sip my drink as the shadows grow deeper, watching the gorgeous middle-aged women in their furs (yes, it’s still chilly enough for furs here in the early evening) as they windowshop next door at Le Cose di Anna. Slowly, the street begins to empty, the café umbrellas are folded and chairs stacked, the outdoor lights shining on the Palazzo begin to take effect. The first part of the evening seduction is over; we all move inside to continue the dance, myself included.