The Italian Exodus – Ferragosto & Beyond

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Summer Exodus – Pressione Bassa!


I don’t know if you can tell, but I’m a little behind in my blog posting. I’m actually very lucky this year because I’ve been to the Riviera Romagnola with my son (here’s what I’ve shared so far), Lisbon in Portugal for a week of sight-seeing with my sister and her family (you can read about my first impressions, a Castle visit and the Cable Cars that saved my sanity here) and even my parents have made their way to Modena for a week-long visit.


Now, I am lucky enough to head to Copenhagen in Denmark to see one of my dearest friends, her man and their brand new baby girl. Her pregnancy was probably one of the biggest joys for me in the last year and a half because it has been a long wait. I prayed for this baby every single time I held my own. We are spending two whole weeks with them in Copenhagen and I can’t wait to get to know this new little person and see my good friends as parents.


I now understand why so many bloggers plan guest posts in the summer….IT IS HARD to blog when you’re having fun!! We don’t have air conditioning in our apartment, and the humid Modena summers mean, sweating at 11 pm, while mosquitoes eat you alive and longing for a gelato to cool you down, if only temporarily.


Not only am I finding it really hard to concentrate, but my blood pressure is low. While I was pregnant I often fainted in the summer months and with this heat I find I only want to be either outside in the shade, on the couch / bed sleeping or…… nope…. no third option, that’s pretty much it!


In Italy people search for natural remedies to help them feel better and low blood pressure is no different! So I’ve been eating my fair share of liquirizia (pure liquorish), not the sweetest, but BOY does it ever work! I feel better after just one piece.


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Another natural option to beating the summer heat is the SUMMER EXODUS that happens in Italy. If you follow me on Instagram you’ve seen this picture.



It is Modena last Sunday in the afternoon….not a soul in sight. Ferragosto, August 15th, is a National holiday. But many people leave the city as soon as their office closes for the summer.


The Italian tradition of closing up shop for a few weeks in the summer was always strange to me as a North American. I viewed it as Italian laziness, but I couldn’t have been more mistaken.


Vacations make the economy go round! So what if a shop closes, Airports work, highway tolls get paid as people drive to their destinations, hotels, restaurants and shops in the mountains and beach areas work, and summer festivals give temporary work to students.




When my husband and I talk about closing down for the summer the conversation usually goes like this:


Marco: “Don’t Canadians go on vacation?”


Me: “Yes they do, but not all at the same time”


Marco: “You mean businesses stay open all summer long??”


Me: “Yes. You usually ask for vacation for a specific week and get approval. Not everyone goes at the same time”


Marco: “What about the store owners?”


Me: “If they have no help some NEVER close! I only remember my dad ever taking a few vacations in a ten year period. Or you leave someone else in charge”


Marco: “So….You’re telling me, that if I go to Toronto in August I’ll find the stores open.???”




His utter disbelief made me understand that there are some cultural differences that an Italian can’t understand.


In a country FILLED with small micro-businesses that are family run with no outside help, HOW can the owners stay open and have a family vacation? In Italy the summer vacation is sacred. It is THE ONLY time that mom and pop shops feel free to potentially loose a sale and dedicate to some R&R and family time.


Not only is it sacred, but what is the point of staying open when most cities (aside from big tourist centres like Rome, Milan, or the Beach destinations) literally shut down.


Changes – and Not For The Better


Of course, like all traditions in Italy even the Summer Exodus is changing. Restaurants in mid-size cities are staying open, big companies that export out of Italy are staying open to serve their international clients and they affect all of the micro- businesses around them.


And of course the CRISIS!


With the economic crisis, not everyone can afford to close up shop. So they sit in the heat waiting for someone to enter; a tourist, an employee of a local business, or residents who also couldn’t afford to go away.


But I think this is BAD for the Economy. Those shop owners never spend money by going away. Moral is low because they didn’t get to rejuvenate themselves and somewhere out there a few more gelatos by the seaside were never sold! TRAGEDY!


Like many Italian-isms, I just didn’t “get” the August closing until I started working for my husband’s company. We are lucky enough to be able to afford air conditioning in our factory/showroom. I remember a few years ago the air conditioning broke and I literally melted in my office. My laptop got so over heated that I burned my hands on the keyboard while trying to type.


It gets HOT, everyone is tired and if we didn’t shut down neither my husband nor his parents would ever get a break from the daily grind. Even though we work primarily for U.S. clients, religiously, every year we take a two week break and they’ve gotten used to it!



The fear in a globalized economy is that these clients will take their business elsewhere, opting to work with non-Italian businesses that are open year-round.   In fact, next year there is a chance that we may also stay open all year round for a web project we’re working on. Oh the horror.


Until then, I will enjoy the fact that my husband is finally on vacation. The factory is closed, he’s out with our son at the park on a Tuesday morning while I blog and make lunch. And slowly and surely we are packing our bags in preparation for a fresh getaway to rainy Copenhagen!


Off to spend our pennies at cultural attractions, bike rentals and local street food.


I’m a little scared of Copenhagen, as I’ve found out it is the most expensive city in Europe. We’ve decided to be true Italians and bring one luggage of food! Gluten free pasta, bread, rice and snacks for my toddler. Olive oil, tomatoes, parmiggiano reggiano, pecorino cheese, tuna and espresso of excellent quality! And paper plates, plastic cups and cutlery and a picnic blanket so that we can opt for a good old fashion picnic on most days!


We want to make the economy “go-round” we just don’t want to go broke in the process! And as my husband says “Sure we can find olive oil there, but it won’t be as good and it will cost three times as much, let’s just bring it from home!”


And like this, EVEN when Italians go out of the country THEY still help the local economy!!









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  • Erin

    I would love a two week vacation in August! If the business has employees (especially not family employees) do they get paid for the time off? Also when does school start for the kids? Here it is traditional to start school in August. In fact my kiddo started today!

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    • YES. That’s crazy that school starts in August. Now that I follow a lot of American bloggers I’ve been noticing all of the “back to school” pictures. And I was like “back to school already? That’s impossible! School NEVER starts before September….and usually the second week of September at that.

      Ahhhh….to be employed in Italy! Right now there is a huge problem because companies offer contracts and don’t include vacation. But let’s say you were a real, full-time employee, then YES, you’d get those two weeks off and they would be PAID! All of the artisans that work for my husband’s company get this vacation PLUS other vacation days. However, some of the independent artisans that have their own workshop DON’T get paid vacation. But people in Italy are usually willing to give up two weeks of work for their sacred vacation time.

      Not every industry vacations in August. For example if you work in a pool, at a holiday destination or in tourism this is your busiest time. But I think that’s normal.

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  • When I was at university I made friends with an Italian woman from Rome who told me all about the heat during the summer and, as a person who HATES being hot, I thought it sounded horrendous!

    I’ve only been to Italy once, unfortunately 🙁 , and we went to Rome in July, during a heatwave. It was fine for us because we were only sightseeing but the thought of having to go to work or look remotely presentable/professional, well, it didn’t bear thinking about!



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  • I love that conversation with your husband, hilarious! I’ve worked over the years with many companies based in Italy, Portugal, Spain, and they all shut down in August – even France. I have to say that it was always frustrating, but I can certainly understand that for smaller businesses it makes much more economic sense to shut rather than pay for electricity and bills for a shop that sits empty of clients. Great pics of the archways in Modena, especially after seeing your vibrant, busy pics before! Thanks so much my dear for linking to #AllAboutYou – and enjoy Coppenhagen!

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