/Outdoor dining. Streets are places to gather. Meet, eat, and be merry. Growing up in an alfresco utopia. Italy.

If you need proof that Italy is among the most skilled countries in the world at the art of eating outdoors, consider this: the word used in English to refer to the act of dining under the stars is borrowed straight from Italian. Alfresco, that's how people refer to that. In my mother tongue, that translates to "in the cold", which for all those people still allowed to eat in restaurants in winter may feel very accurate. What you may not know is that back in bel paese that's not how we refer to pulling up a chair at a table on a pavement. If we use the word literally, that will mean keeping something chilled, and in its metaphorical sense, the expression actually means spending time in prison, where I believe the food served is not as nice as going to a trattoria. So when booking a table in Italy what you want to be requesting is a table all'aperto, which means "in the open". Perhaps it is just an interesting coincidence, but the idea of openness and transparency applies well to public space. Eating out even if you're sitting inside a restaurant is always something of a performance. Not just for whomever you might be going on a date with. But for all the other people in the room too. Transfer that approach to a table settled on a cobbler stone in a piazza, and you will soon realize that eating all'aperto is in many ways a parade. Like much of the activities that take place in an Italian square, it's an act of community building, a slice of public life. This aspect of Italian behavior is only one of the main reasons why eating outdoors is so popular in the country. The others of course have got to do with the weather. During much of spring and summer, the nation is blessed with glorious sunshine. So much so that many restaurants are equipped with umbrellas, not to preventing measures from the rain but to offer people some shade from the unforgiving midday heat. Take a stroll along the coast in a seaside resort town, from Liguria to Sardinia, and you'll also notice that many restaurants barely bother with having indoor seating space. Their tables are spooling on the passeggiata instead. Come in August in the deserted but beautifully prepped dining rooms, and you will only find some solitary-family all asking for air conditioning. Another reason why dinners outdoors are so popular in Italy has got to do with the country's cities and their urban nature too. Terraces and courtyards are common features of many palazzos and easily converted into hospitality ventures. Like their Mittel European counterparts, northern Italian cities features plenty of arcades where seating is possible even during the colder and wetter months. Thanks to well-preserved historical centers plenty of cities have neighbors that have either remained traffic-free or are at least pedestrian-friendly, which means tables can spell out in the street. Every waiter can find a way to squeeze a table even in the most narrow of the streets.