Many of our clients who have recently placed orders for production necessary items have become aware that almost nothing, including our company, functions normally during the month of August. In fact any expat or tourist visiting during the month of August in Italy can tell you that small towns and whole parts of cities for all intensive purposes shut down. On my bus ride this morning I did a kind of inventory count of how many stores and coffee shops have close their doors and stuck up a “on holiday” signs. An American on average has vastly less vacation time than the regular Italian, and might be wondering how it is possible that companies and employees alike manage to take 3 weeks to a month of holiday time during this humid sticky month.
As with so many things in Italian culture the event of the “August Holiday” goes back centuries to the time of the Romans. August 15th is believed to be pagan holiday celebrating the end to summer planting and rejoicing in the fertility of the land. Pagan goddesses like Diana were particularly worships for their images of fecundity and nurturing. The tradition of taking the whole month to celebrate this holiday began with the reign of Roman Emperor Augustus. The time of the festivities were given the name “feriae augusti” in honor of the emperor. The Roman Catholic Church also celebrates August 15th as the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, also a figure of nurturing and fertility. So Italian Catholics with pride in their heritage, which makes up a large portion of the population, take this a sacred month as their traditional vacation. What does that leave in terms of operating procedure for small shop and stores that make up Italy’s every day commerce? Next to nill!
Word to the travel wise: if you are coming to Italy be prepared to walk a little further to find an open corner store, be aware that many places will be understaffed, and that service in general might seem a bit under par. All those who normally aid you on your vacation will also be enjoying the fruits and beauty of their own country either in mountain resorts or seaside villas. This also applies to any new expat as well. Recharging you mobile, going to state run offices, and overall public transport will not be running at normal capacity. Not to worry though, a lot of patience and a cool bottle of water will see you through it!