Wednesday, August 14, 2013


August 15th is called Ferragosto in Italy – the holiday synonymous with summer vacation.

In the past, those forced to stay in the city during the month of August would be faced with living in a ghost town - especially during the week of Ferragosto. Factories and businesses throughout the country would close their doors at the beginning of the month and workers would flock to the beach, or the mountains, for their annual month-long holiday. For decades, Italy basically shut down during August. Most everything was closed (usually for the entire month – but definitely for the week of Ferragosto) and finding something to buy or to do if not in a tourist location was nearly impossible.

However, times are slowly changing. Whether it’s because of the global market or the hurting local economy, this year the August city dwellers will find themselves in good company. To start, very few businesses can afford to close for a month, and the “innovative” concept of having employees take their vacations in turns – and not allowing them to use all 4 weeks at once – has become commonplace. Another reason is certainly that most families are hard-pressed to finance extravagant long vacations. In fact, this year is showing a huge drop in summer travel by Italians. Most are remaining within national borders and limiting their stays to a week (or even less) – and an unprecedented number is not taking a vacation at all.

Going on summer vacation in the 1950s -  photo:

In many ways, this shift in vacation patterns was inevitable. Italy could not expect to be part of the European (and global) economy while continuing its 11 month work calendar. The hope is that the recession will soon ease, so that people who have worked hard will at least be able to take some vacation, and those who lack work will soon find it. 

In the meantime, for those “stuck” in Florence this August, the good news is that not everything is closed. You can even go to a museum on Ferragosto! Many of the city’s major galleries will remain open - so the 15th  might prove to be a good day (with fewer crowds) to take advantage of the city's cultural offerings.

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