Glimpses Into the Lives of Others

On one of the warmer evenings of recent days, the sky was bright blue with barely any clouds in the sky. The temperature was sitting roughly around 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit, so it was easy to pick out those individuals who were not originally from this region, who were maybe more acclimated to lower temperatures. These individuals had on a light sweater at most, whereas there were others with hefty jackets on, shivering from the wind.

Needless to say, sitting out in the Piazza IV Novembre on an October evening at 5:45, in the middle of the week, there was an interesting mix of people out and about. I saw students sitting on the steps, some enjoying cold gelato, and some not so much. The people walking around clearly lived in the area. Whether or not they were originally born here was another question. This brought to mind the notion of strangers and residents that Jane Jacobs has written about. What happens when strangers become residents? The coexistence between the two is vital for a city to be successful, and in an open, central place such as Piazza IV Novembre, it is easy to see these two entities working together.

There wasn’t as much of a separation between foreign students and local residents as I had assumed there would be. Shopkeepers and baristas were chatting amicably with people walking by, and there were less tourists clogging up the main walkway, making it easy for people to go about their business.

I saw people traversing the same routes that I take every day, stopping into the same bars, sitting on the same steps. This Piazza has the characteristics of what make a space, a place, good. Although the outskirts are privatized, the steps are open to all, and people do gather there. That is something that I noticed on my first night here. It becomes a mosh-posh of people from all over, coming together over food and drink. I see the signs of a successful city in Perugia, and I see that the role that tourists play does not overpower the role that residents play, and I appreciate that.

I think if the weather had been warmer, more people would have been crowding the Piazza, but as temperatures drop, it will be interesting to see how the city adapts, where individuals decide to gather, and which place calls people in.

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