Thursday, August 19, 2010

Closed for Vacation

Chiuso per ferie. Closed for vacation.

Every August, the northern part of Italy closes up and goes south for the summer. For 2 to 3 weeks in August, anywhere around Milan is a ghost town. It is quite surreal to have parking readily available, empty streets and closed up shops. It's hard to fathom, in comparison to our American always-open mentality, that business owners would close up their businesses for 2 to 3 weeks. What if someone needed something? "No matter" is the sentiment here. They have lives to live. "What, do you expect us to be open all of the time for you?" Apparently not.

I was talking to a colleague at work yesterday about this time. He said it's not nearly as quiet and empty as it used to be. The big multi-national companies don't close anymore, like they used to in August, so there are a lot more people working. And of course that means the support of stores and other services. Also this year, with the economy, people may be on vacation but staying home rather than going to the sea. So the empty streets we are experiencing are not even that empty.

I will never understand it, why you would want to take a vacation at the same time as every one else. And, in the heat of summer, to the hottest places. But this is Italy, this is what they do. Their culture, tradition. Even while I shake my head in disbelief, I also feel a little sad that this cultural phenomena is slowly changing to be more like the rest of the world.

With that, I'm heading out on vacation myself. Summer vacation is only so long for my son, so that means travel at the peak times for us too. I will be back in a week or so, with pics of England to share.


  1. I have only known people to leave during the winter, snowy ghost towns, not summery ghost towns, how odd!

  2. It is sad that the culture is changing. Have a wonderful trip. I am looking forward to your pictures of England.

  3. Have a wonderful time in my country. I wonder what bits you are going to explore...

    On a similar note, I have visited summer resorts in France that are empty come October (when it is still warm enough to sit on the beach). It was very strange...

  4. Travel is so much fun because we get to discover new ways of doing and living by visiting new places! When places start becoming more and more alike it's not as interesting, is it? I am sad to see the Latin custom of siesta fading away as more and more countries adopt the American schedule. I've been trying to get more people to take siestas here, with little success.
    Kat, have a wonderful trip and we'll look forward to seeing your beautiful photos when you get back.

  5. Being in interior design, we dealt a lot with France and same thing. When times were good and we were waiting for shipments to come, they would warn us not to count on anything coming till late September.

    My daughter just came back from Spain and experienced the siesta. She said she thought the reason they had them was because it was sooo hot! Who would want to go out in that heat. :) Looking forward to more pics! Enjoy!

  6. As different parts of the world start to observe similar work rhythms it's almost like going to any shopping mall and seeing the same old stores - you almost can count on where they're going to be - and it becomes very uninteresting. I remember one of my friends who was stationed in Germany saying how much she loved the weekends there because the stores closed at noon on Saturday and everyone did things with friends and family - you couldn't go shopping or do errands - nothing was open. So you went walking in the forests, or played, or visited. It sounded like a wonderful way to recreate.
    Have a great vacation/recreation.

  7. I remember that my mom (and even my dad!) always took a nap after lunch. And no one dared to call anyone between 12pm and 3pm. This was Germany, 1960's to 1990's.
    Since 2001 I've been living in the US, and I still don't call anyone between 12 and 3. Very often I take a nap myself, before my daughter comes home from school (that's the real advantage of working from home). And realize that I'm the only one who doesn't dare to use the phone during that time. Sigh.
    The Italians go on vacation in August probably for the same reason you do: their children's school break is only so long. I like this tradition. But then I love Italy. It's my favorite country.
    Have fun in England. It's so beautiful. I look forward to your photos.

  8. Oh, I love this cultural phenomenon in Italy. I have been in Milan during this time (flying back to the U.S., and there was seriously only one restaurant open). I love this phenomenon because it says we're taking vacation no matter what. I find the same attitude in the afternoon siesta closures and how everything's closed on Sundays. It makes me so happy that someone, somewhere still puts relaxation before convenience. It is sad to me too that this is changing. I also understand your question about why people would want to go on vacation at the same time as everyone else---my family is from Calabria, and I've been on the cost during the Ferie, and it's a mad-house. It is quite comical though, and it's a family thing. I think the one good thing about a national time for vacation, is that you can easily go on vacation as a family, which seems to be the Italian way.

    Thanks for sharing this post---it makes me nostalgic for Italy!

  9. I'm not sure that Italy doesn't have it right! We are work-alcoholics in the states, what happened to those month long vacations at a beach house? Not that I ever experienced it but in my dreams. it just seems the right thing to do! Have a blast!

  10. I'm cheering on the Italians from afar. I love that they are still managing to hold onto their tradition, even if it's being eroded by big corporations. It shows they have their priorities right. Relaxation and being with people are far more important than keeping businesses perpetually open.

    Have a great time in England, look forward to the pictures.


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