• Michael Dahdal

In The Piazza, Where Else?

Updated: Jan 10, 2020

'Piazza’ (noun) def : a public square or marketplace, especially in an Italian town.

If you manage to drive around most of southern Europe, through the villages and the countryside, particularly in Spain and Italy, you’ll notice something pretty cool.

You’ll notice a church in the centre of the village that opens onto a public square; known in Italian simply as ‘La Piazza’ (The Piazza).

The Piazza forms the centre of communal life.

People would commonly worship on a Sunday morning, then after church they would spill out into the square to catch up on the weekly gossip, enjoy a meal with the family or just hang out with friends.

Not only does this Sunday ritual allow people the time to connect, but also the physical space to do so as well.

You’ll find that the place of worship and ‘the square’ are generally at the heart of any village or town – society is constructed around it.

This is by design – not coincidence.

It’s undoubtedly a form of ‘social engineering’; a very conscious and deliberate way in which to structure a society.

It’s recognising what values the community wishes to reinforce and then it’s creating the conditions to encourage those values to manifest themselves.

This is not unique to Italy - you’ll commonly see temples, synagogues, and mosques at the heart of almost every community all over the Middle East and Asia.

In contrast, what I notice as I get around the suburbs of Sydney, where I grew up, is something a little different.

I’d see that suburbs are generally constructed around a Westfield’s (shopping mall). The mall seems to have replaced the piazza as the centre of public life.

It’s a case of out with the Piazza and in with the Plaza!

This too is a form of social engineering – although I’m not quite sure what kind of society is being engineered? Perhaps one that values and promotes economic growth above all else?

The increased emphasis on individualism contributes to increased isolation and this isolation is not natural to you as a human being.

It’s not uncommon these days to live for several years next door to the same people and not ever know their names.

Communal life, strong social bonds and meaningful human connection are such an important element for you to be able to thrive; so why wouldn’t we structure our lives to support it?

So now, there’s nothing left to do but propose a toast –


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