People watching: it never gets old. It’s fun on gameday (yay mullets!), at concerts (yay piercings!) and even at the grocery store (why are you buying so many hotdogs!?). I walk through a huge historical landmark, Piazza Duomo, on a near-daily basis, so not only have I become somewhat of a professional people-watcher (out of context that declaration might not sound flattering…), but I’ve managed to categorize a few subspecies of Piazza Duomo pedestrians.
- People walking unreasonably slowly.
I’m sure you could find this in any large city, but at a tourist spot its remarkable how people really come together, fanning out across the entire sidewalk and competing to see who can walk the slowest. Whether they’re taking tiny steps or just acting out a slow-motion scene from a movie, I’ve never seen such large groups of people walking obliviously at such a slow pace. If you’re having trouble locating a herd of them, come to the Duomo when you’re running late. They sneak out from the cobblestone cracks, I think.
- People wearing matching outfits.
This one comes in all shapes and sizes. I don’t know why the idea of parading around Florence in a matching “I ❤ ROMA” tee shirt with your mom seems like a must-do, but there must be some hidden benefit or it couldn’t be THIS popular.
You know you’ve really hit the jackpot when you catch a pack of middle schoolers on a field trip. I thought the US had cornered the market on traumatized tweens, but you haven’t seen “awkward” until you spot 30 sweaty seventh graders dressed in identical, usually florescent, t-shirts.
Extra points if you see a group of people that don’t realize they’re matching; maybe there are three girls walking together that are ALL wearing rompers (are they really that ubiquitous now?). Perhaps you’ll spot two hip young cats in matching v-necks and fedoras. I recently saw a group of mid-50’s women all wearing shawls and floor length skirts. Just keep your eyes peeled, because unintentional twins are always the funniest.
- People dressed for another season’s weather.
If it is 80 degrees outside and your gelato melts before you can even take a bite of it, you are going to see someone wearing an overcoat. Likewise, if your fingers are freezing off and your nose is vaguely frostbitten, you can count on seeing some doofy frat guy in seersucker shorts. (Tip: The guy in the summer clothes is always an American; Don’t ask him for directions. You’ll get a blank stare.)
- People who catcall.
I truly pity this subspecies. Apparently there is a large demographic of young Florentine men who have nothing to do but spend hours sitting on the same curb drinking Peroni and calling out to passing women. These guys are all exactly the same, say exactly the same phrases, and make exactly the same gestures. Someday, maybe one man among boys will branch off from the usual Ciao beeellaaa, ohh-maiii-gahhddd, or ooh-waahh-owwww with some new catcalling material and really revolutionize the sport. But you know, some species never evolve. It’s unfortunate, but they reveal their desperation in their refusal to discriminate based on looks, age, smell, or hygiene. Just coming home from the gym? Ooooh, ciao beeellaaa. No time to shower this morning? Ohhhhh, ciaooooo BEEELLLAAAA!! Walking with granny? Ciao beeelllISSSIMAAAAAA! BELLA! BELLA! BELLA!!!
- People who think they don’t look like Americans.
Hey, no hypocrisy here. I realize I fall into this subspecies most of the time. You know, ordering a cappuccino at 3pm. Wearing long patterned scarves from the leather market. Saying scuzi too much. Not saying scuzi enough. Being too bold in traffic. Not being bold enough in traffic. You basically aren’t going to get it right unless you’ve lived here a while. In fact, the whole point of people watching is that 90% of the time, someone is also people watching you.