As a nation state, Italy has emerged only in 1871. Until then the country was politically divided into a large number of independant cities, provinces and islands. The currently available evidences point out to a dominant Etruscan, Greek and Roman cultural influence on today's Italians.
My father always said that because he was the oldest grandson he was expected to accompany his GM if no one else was going someplace with her. So he would take her to the beach, to church, etc. Is this a tradition or was it just specific to his family? They were from Basilicata.
I do not have a website to show you, but have read that women had escorts until married. The husband probably was the escort after that. My grandmother always had some body with her (but she was also only 5 ft tall). I would think, my guess, that it was probably a safety, etiquette and just more friendly way of doing things. It is a social culture.