Old Men in an Old Town in Europe

Have you seen these old men?

They walked in the square, slowly, some with longer steps, reminding me of a frugal old friend called ‘long-steps’ because he wanted to preserve his shoes’ rubber heels. I’m sure they were resolving issues. They stopped often, turned, grabbed an arm, tapped a chest, gave a hug, smiled, frowned. They looked at each other, oblivious to those around them. They were the senior men of the community, and they were out for their morning walk.

Salamanca, Spain

I was vacationing in Spain and I saw them. I have seen them in other European towns. They walk noiselessly on the 500-year-old pavements surrounded by buildings just as old; buildings that observed so many walks, so many happenings, so much history.

They arrived at the church. No, they did not go in. I heard that the older European men were not great churchgoers. They stopped. They turned, heading back to where they started. This day was a bit cool, so they wore short outer jackets with a sweater, a light blue shirt and a dark blue tie. Clean-shaven, dressed well, shoes polished. Some wore hats, silvery white hair peeking from under the brims. This was their town, and I suspect they had never strayed from it. They were pleased and proud.

On one cold day in Italy, I watched as they entered a coffee shop (bar) at the corner of the square in a medieval town and sat until lunch time. I wanted to sit with them. I wanted to listen to their Italian, perhaps even speak a bit. But I did not. It would have been an intrusion, not only on them but also on my thoughts of them. I did not want anything to change. It was too good to observe. They laughed. I laughed with them.

Sometimes one of them ‘sped’ by alone, dressed in a suit and overcoat, in polished formal shoes taking small steps, likely on a mission … pay a bill, buy some milk, go to the post office? Or maybe he was a professor going to teach his class.

No one hurried or was hurried. They were simply in their town, in their personal paradise, old men living out their days, at peace, in harmony.


By | 2018-11-09T13:46:51+00:00 November 12th, 2018|Reflections, Travel|29 Comments


  1. Michele November 12, 2018 at 12:33 pm - Reply

    Nice story Ed

    • Ed November 12, 2018 at 1:07 pm - Reply

      Thank you, Michele

  2. Claire Giannamore November 12, 2018 at 1:43 pm - Reply

    I have always observed them while in Italy, but you so eloquently expressed the experience that is so old world.

    • Ed November 12, 2018 at 10:36 pm - Reply

      Thank you, Claire. I have observed them so often, and on this trip, it touched me a bit more. Maybe because I am getting older and want to stroll more.

  3. Ann Storti November 12, 2018 at 1:56 pm - Reply

    Dr. I, you have such a way with words. Love it, it reminds me of my vacations in Italy. While my friends might be viewing the beautiful monuments I find myself watching the natives and observing their every move, their facial expressions, and their hand movements. Days like these just bring me back to my childhood when my grandfather would had his push cart up Federal Hill selling his goods. Back in the days when people had compassion and love for one another. Thank you so much for each and every article. Great job Dr. I.

    • Ed November 12, 2018 at 10:35 pm - Reply

      I feel your emotion, Ann, and I think you felt mine in the story.

  4. Mary Ann Sheridan November 12, 2018 at 2:54 pm - Reply

    Lovely story

  5. Peter Voccio JR. November 12, 2018 at 5:28 pm - Reply

    Silence was proper. A beautiful story of pride and love for each other that took many years to acquire. We have a walking trail at Johnston Memorial Park and on occasion some older Italian men walk in a group of three or four speaking the Italian language. It is nice to hear them talk to one another as they walk along even though I am lost on their thoughts.

    • Ed November 12, 2018 at 10:34 pm - Reply

      More need to do more of it. What a treasure.

  6. Joe Kernan November 12, 2018 at 5:42 pm - Reply

    Nice observations Dr. Ed. The reason they didn’t go to church so much is that their wives always dressed in black and fingered rosary beads and generally supplied all the “churchin'” a man could stand right at home.

    • Ed November 12, 2018 at 10:33 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Joe. I think you are correct. Funny.

  7. Tom DeNucci November 12, 2018 at 5:47 pm - Reply

    Loved your story.
    When I was a young boy spending summers at my aunt’s house in Bristol I would see old men walking, all the time. We lived at the bottom of the hill from The Bristol Veteran’s Home, and at the time it was known as the “Old Soldiers’ Home.” Men would walk down the hill, leading down to the water (Mt Hope Bay) and then back up again. I remember asking my Aunt who they were. “Why, those are our boys. They fought for us!” Round trip is almost 2 miles, all down hill one way, then all up hill the other. They would slowly stroll to the water, sometimes alone, sometimes in small groups. Much like you described in your story, there was comradery and brotherhood. Those walking solo seemed deep in thought. What stories they must have shared !. And we are talking 50 years ago, so most likely there were WW I vets in those groups of men. I don’t see walkers any more, strolling up and down the hill. I wonder why. Thanks for reminding me of those days, especially today on Veterans” Day.

    • Ed November 12, 2018 at 10:32 pm - Reply

      Yes, Tom, it hit an emotional cord for me also. Thanks for sharing your memories …. and for rekindling the spirit of those who fought for us. Yes, what stories indeed. I so wanted to be part of the conversations those men shared. I have breakfast weekly with a group called ROMEOS; Retired Old Men Eating Out. It is interesting how much I look forward to that one hour a week … sharing stories, information, even research topics. It is something we all need to do. Maybe instead of sitting, we should stoll arm in arm.

  8. Norman Albanese November 12, 2018 at 5:50 pm - Reply

    Are there any towns, as to which you speak, left in the US?

    • Ed November 12, 2018 at 10:27 pm - Reply

      I see a bit of it here in Bristol, RI. I so wish there were more.

  9. John C. Yuill November 12, 2018 at 8:02 pm - Reply

    A beautiful story, Ed. It reminds me of some of my shipmates when we get together which is pretty seldom now-a-days. Thanks. JC

    • Ed November 12, 2018 at 10:26 pm - Reply

      Thank you, John. It touched an emotional chord for me.

  10. Vin DiBiasio November 12, 2018 at 11:05 pm - Reply

    Great story Ed. These men were probably friends since early childhood growing up in the same small town reminiscing about their lives over eight or nine decades.

    • Ed November 12, 2018 at 11:23 pm - Reply

      Exactly what I thought, Vin. Friends for a lifetime. I will repost my story “You Should Never Lose Touch With Childhood Friends,” again, soon. Thanks for teeing me up about it.

  11. Marvin Wasser November 13, 2018 at 2:50 am - Reply

    One word: PASSEGGIATA

    • Ed November 13, 2018 at 11:44 am - Reply

      Yes, Marvin. You got it!

  12. Natalie L McKenna November 13, 2018 at 11:02 pm - Reply

    I love your story, Ed. I used to sit in the park or take a short stroll and watch so many different types of people, Old, young, happy, sad, in a hurry or just prodding along and would wonder about them. Where were they going or coming from? Why were they sad? Oh she is so happy! Etc. I in turn would be happy or sad thinking about what and where they were going and thinking. I had forgotten about those days. It seems now that I am always in a hurry and don’t take time to watch anymore! I’ll have to take time to sit and watch!

    • Ed November 14, 2018 at 1:16 am - Reply

      I had all the same thoughts, Natalie. It is always nice to see them. But, I rarely see old men walking here in the States.

  13. John H. Gartner November 16, 2018 at 8:22 pm - Reply

    Like one person stated, “You have a way with words.” The guy in the middle reminds me of me.

    • Ed November 16, 2018 at 8:26 pm - Reply

      Thanks, John. Yes, I see the resemblance.

  14. Angela Almeida November 20, 2018 at 1:52 pm - Reply

    This is an amazing text! Great sense of observing, discovering details that are not notice by most of us! I loved it! Amazing writing. Music with words.

    • Ed November 20, 2018 at 2:43 pm - Reply

      Thank you, Angela. Safe Travels

  15. Theresa Jeremiah November 21, 2018 at 12:22 am - Reply

    Saw this male camaraderie in Italy. Also noticed older women with locked arms going about the towns . Saw the same in the “old days” on Federal Hill. Ah! Touch meant love ❤️

    • Ed November 21, 2018 at 12:38 pm - Reply

      Yes, love the special flavor of the camaraderie. Thanks, Theresa. Happy Thanksgiving

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