"La Passaggiata", Central Madrid, February 17, 2019

A friend told me that what I photographed in central Madrid in February of 2019 was known across Europe, where it is practiced in multiple countries, by its Italian name, 'La Passaggiata'.

As the sign on the wall says, this is the famous, gigantic square, the Puerta del Sol - where the great demonstrations against The Crisis gathered a few years earlier. This is looking back up one of the several wide pedestrian streets that leads to the square. People flooding in, and out.

The square itself, is just as full, groups of people talking, walking, passing.

Then, this is another connecting street, leading out towards the other huge square downtown: The Plaza Mayor, where many government buildings are.

The Plaza Mayor is often the most-crowded of all: being central to a lot of restaurant streets, and restaurants all around the perimeter.

There are a it's the smaller ones that often have the partially-outdoor cafes.

The more major streets have the stores, which are mostly closed at this time, despite all these crowds! It's not shopping time, though - it's for La Passagiata and finding oneself supper.

Later, as dark falls, the Puerta del Sol begins to thin out. Slowly. Perhaps more to bars than to restaurants, as they may have had a large mid-day meal, and supper is at 10:30 - Madrid supper time.

This was not a comprehensive tour: the area of La Passaggiata is too large to fully patrol in a couple of hours! I made a map of the areas where I did see it, as part of a blog post about pandemic infection, this being exactly a year before COVID-19 would have been already circulating in Madrid. So the area is coloured in "emergency orange", sorry.

So that's "La Passaggiata". I show the size of the crowds, above, to emphasize that even though over 100,000 people must live in central Madrid - and a million are within a very quick subway, bus, or taxi ride - room has been made, with many squares and pedestrian streets, for most of them to enjoy "La Passaggiata" every night. This was typical. Weekends are not much different from weekdays!

I would emphasize that this cultural phenomenon requires government and business to be working together like a pair of hands. The stroll itself requires massive public investment in public space - all that valuable real estate, sacrificed to squares and wide streets. Notice that cars are not a big deal in central Madrid, little used but for cargo.

But, nobody would come to these spaces - there are wonderful public parks just minutes away, all empty - if it were not for all the cafes and bars. They're meeting for a bit before they pick one, either for a quick coffee or wine before back home, or for dinner-out night. You can see from the size of the crowds that only a fraction are actually going to dinner for hours; but even the fraction that do, mean this is the safest place to open an establishment you can find.

Copyright, Roy Brander, 2023. All non-commercial use granted.