Ferragosto: the blessing and the bane of the Italian summer, and the subject of this week’s COSI post. Some people adore this Italian summer holiday, while others find it to be incredibly annoying. My sentiments lie somewhere in the middle… here’s why:
“Never mind la Crisi, it’s too hot to work”.
This concept gets thrown around a lot in the weeks leading up to the ENTIRE month of August. How a country that is supposedly in an economic depression can afford to just take off for the whole month of August, is beyond me. I’d also like to know when in Italian history it became customary to take 2-3 weeks off in the days surrounding August 15th, the day of the Assumption in the Catholic religion.
The origins of this celebration actually pre-date Catholicism and used to be a period of rest after a long season of agricultural work and the summer harvest. Then, during the Fascist regime, it became popular to travel on the 15th; there were cheap train tickets offered to the working class for 2 and 3 day trips around Italy. But when-oh-when did people start taking the liberty of 2-3 weeks off, I wonder. My guess is that it became customary during the economic boom of the 70’s and 80’s, and after that it just stuck.
One would think that, with the Crisi being cited as an excuse for all manner of woes (including not paying professional fees), the precious vacation pilgrimage to the beaches of Italy would also need to be sacrificed in these recent years. But no. Many of our clients who can’t pay their bills miraculously find funds for 2 weeks at the beach. Not that they have much of a choice. Apparently 48% of employers in Italy actually require that you take time off in August. The office closes down, and you couldn’t work even if you wanted to!
In the beginning, I rebelled a bit… you know, before I learned that submitting to the system is a much more pleasant approach to expat life in Italy. We started our business in the midst of the worst of the 2008-2009 economic situation, and so we thought, “let’s be proactive and take advantage of the August break. Instead of piling onto the highways like all these people, let’s use this opportunity to get some work done.”
How young and naive we were.
Our resolve quickly melted away into the heat of the August sun. After we realized that no one would return a phone call or email until September anyway and we were the only fools sitting at our desks sweating from the calories burned while typing and moving the mouse, we agreed to never do that again.
It IS too hot to work. And there’s no one around anyway, so you might as well just use the break.
EVERYONE goes to the beach… but… everyone goes to the beach!
Per quanto riguarda la destinazione, il 44% è diretto al mare, contro un esiguo 10% che preferisce il fresco della montagna. Fra i vacanzieri, il 14% ha pianificato un viaggio all’estero e il 7% si immergerà nelle bellezze architettoniche e culturali di una capitale europea o città italiana. – MetroNews
If you don’t speak Italian, that little quote says that 44% of Italy goes to the beach at Ferragosto. FORTY-FOUR PERCENT. Do you know how many people that is? Like… a crap-load! Do you know how big Italian beaches are? Not that big!! Why on earth anyone would want to fight for a square meter of sand upon which to lie and fry yourself is yet another aspect of Ferragosto that is beyond me.
I loathe Italian beaches. I really do. With the exception of some deserted ones in the South, they are a teeming mass of sweaty, leathery, skimpily clad vacationers making a bunch of noise for no reason. I really, genuinely, honestly do NOT understand the appeal.
On the plus side, when that 44% heads for the beach, the interior of Italy becomes heavenly. It’s true you have more problems finding businesses that are open, but entire cities are like ghost towns! You can walk through Rome without getting run over and you can explore small town centers as though they are museums.
Ferragosto for us this year means to the Baltic and back!
We decided this year to get the heck outta dodge. My poor marito hasn’t had a vacation since our honeymoon, so we’re packing up the tent and the dog and heading north for 3 weeks. It’s an ambitious plan, but (if all goes well) we’ll encircle the Baltic Sea and make it back home by the end of August, just in time to start our next big project.
I’ll try to get a few updates from the road, depending on how our internet access situation goes, but if you need a little Italy fix in my absence remember to check out my fellow C.O.S.I. bloggers:
- COSI: Ferragosto! Pirates, Family, And Eating Until You Explode – Surviving in Italy
- Ferragosto in Rome – Rick’s Rome
- Your Ferragosto in Florence Survival Guide – Girl in Florence
- Ferragosto link coming soon – The Florence Diaries
- Insights into Ferragosto – Unwilling Expat
- Ferragosto – Englishman in Italy