August: Chiuso per Ferie
Being on visit in Florence in August has its downsides. You will find yourselves walking the almost deserted city streets looking for a bar, restaurant or grocery shop that does not show the sign "chiuso per ferie" (closed for the holidays).
That’s because most of the Florentines - the majority of the Italians, really - will be on vacation in this period.
The city empties, with the exception of the historical center, where the shops remain open mostly for the tourists.
The day that sees the more people fleeting from the cities to got to the beach, is Ferragosto, August 15th. It is a national holiday in Italy, originally founded by Roman Emperor Augustus. Ferragosto comes from the Latin feriae Augusti (rest of Augustus), in honor of Augustus, the first Roman emperor, from which also the August month takes its name.
At the time, this was a period of well deserved rest and celebration, after the great efforts of the agricultural working season.
Now, the celebrations of Ferragosto generally involve a trip to the seaside and, of course, a feast! People tend to organize lunches with family and friends or celebrate with an elegant dinner. But the closure of the shops, as we have mentioned, is not just on August 15th, it lasts the whole month.
A factor that helpd to strenghten this tradition of the August holiday trips, were certainly the “Ferragosto popular trains”, estabilished by the Fascist regime, that encouraged people to travel for a couple of days in this period on the new regional trains, at highly discounted prices. Then, following the economic boom of the 60s, families were able to take the time to go on longer vacations, usually to the seaside, and this tradition has survived to today. Even though the vacation lenght has shortened to an average of 2 weeks. This traditional summer exodus still affects the italian cities as today.
In a country hit hard by the economic crisis, where it is difficult to even find a job, it seems ludicrous that people still can afford to go on vacation for so long. But Italy has always been a beautiful place of contradictions, after all.
Think that, the Bel Paese still has one of the longest school breaks in Europe, from June to the beginning of September. In the past it lasted even until October.
And what about work? Well, even if you wanted to keep working, in most cases it would be a waste of time, since many companies close in August and it will be hard to keep up the commerical relations with someone who is not answering your emails because they’re having a sunbath at the beach!
So, to get back to you, that are hanging around in Florence and having trouble finding an open bar to finally have a taste of that italian cappuccino you were daydraming about, do not worry! Head for the historical center and you will surely find open. But we suggest you to ake your time to enjoy those less central ereas, as long as they’re still peaceful and quiet, and most of al the healthy absence of traffic on the avenues; for us florentines it’s a truly refreshing sight!