Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Tomorrow is the Ferragosto [Assumption Day] holiday and Italy is already closed for business. Italians, you see, all have to go on holiday at the same time and if you suggest that maybe an institution, company, bar or store could stagger staff holidays, you are looked at with incredulity.  To quote one of my favourite writers on living in Italy, Tim Parks:

"For in Italy people are remarkable above all for their conformity, for all doing the same thing at the same time."
- Tim Parks,  An Italian Education

You would think that, after seven years here, I would have got used to the two-week shutdown around this holiday but I have not and this year, in particular, I find myself throwing my arms up in despair as I imagine Mrs Merkel might when she contemplates the Italian economy.  Perhaps it is because this year I am trying to get quite a few things done during this period and, instead of accepting that I cannot, my anger has been boiling over for the past few days:  an important item which is supposed to have been posted to me three weeks ago from Bologna has not arrived and the excuse, of course, is the "time of year";  this morning the banks not only closed one and a half hours early, "because we're prefestivo", but every ATM in Modica was down too!  Come on, guys, if you are going to close the banks a day early, at least make sure the ATMs are working!  The other reason that all this gets to me is that the barista or shop assistant might be the only person with whom someone without a family exchanges a few words in 24 - 48 hours and believe me, such pleasantries as are uttered in these circumstances are important.

However, what one has to come to terms with is that the Italians and the British have totally different concepts of what constitutes a holiday and the Italians actually think it is a time to relax.  Tim Parks, again, explains this very well in the same book, remarking that, for the British, a holiday is more of an endurance test:

"Those were holidays that made a hero of you, that made you proud of our glorious centuries of miserable weather, holidays that made you.... English."

Well, I suppose I'd better grin and bear it, just as I must have grinned and borne sand in my sandwiches, impossible deckchairs, wasps on candyfloss and sitting on the beach in a plastic mac long ago in Britain.  Only another two and a half weeks of this madness to go!

Me "enduring" a holiday in Devon,
c. 1955

Happy Ferragosto, everyone!


Anonymous said...

Hello. I'm also a Welshwoman living in Sicily (Grangetown, Cardiff), and I was wondering if you could tell me if the buses run – I'm in Palermo - during the Assumption Public Holiday (15th August). I hope you don't mind me asking, I ran a Google search regarding the buses and your blog popped up. Cool post, BTW.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, Cheyelle and nice to meet you. As far as I know, inter-city buses are running but to special timetables. As for local buses in Palermo, I suggest you go to the Amat site. You can checkthere which ones, if any, run on public holidays.

Anonymous said...

Thanks. Hope you don't find the next two weeks too stressful and good luck receiving your parcel!

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Thank you, Cheyelle. Hope you have a great Ferragosto. x

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Thanks, WW - took a while to do on Photoshop.

Unknown said...

Buon Ferragosto! I really love your take on Life in Sicily. I've included this blog in the new edition of 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go. Hope to meet you someday when I am in Sicily--Susan

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Thank you, Susan. I am delighted and honoured to be mentioned in your wonderful book. It would be fantastic to meet you. I will post on this tomorrow.

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

How nice that Susan is going to mention your blog in her next book, Pat!

I can't believe that Italy still indulges in taking so much holiday time off when it's economy is suffering, but old habits and traditions are hard to break.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, Pat. Yes, it's great. With regard to the time taken off here in this period, it's incredible but true.

Liz Hinds said...

Anyone of our age will see that photo of you and there will be much head-nodding in recognition.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, Liz. Those were the days - when we wore swimming caps!


View My Stats