Italy has a rather laid-back attitude toward business hours, at least outside the main cities and the industrial areas. Here in the provinces, everything comes to a halt from about 1:00 p.m. until 4:30 or 5:00, when they again roll up the shutters for a couple of hours. We’ve come to enjoy the afternoon siesta, and look at it as a long lunch break: a nice way to rest, catch up on email, or study. An afternoon coffee wakes you back up for the remainder of the day.
Sometimes the hours can be downright quirky, though. For instance, a nearby bank opens from 8:25 a.m. until 1:25 p.m., shuts down for lunch, then reopens from 2:40 p.m. and closes at 4:10 p.m.
Now, I ask you…would knocking it back to nice, half-hour increments really kill them?
For reasons unexplainable all the food shops in the centro storico close on Thursday afternoons. Unless there is a holiday on Friday, in which case they’ll remain open on Thursday, signaling to us that something is amuck that we should find out about. They are then closed on the Friday holiday, instead. Ditto if a holiday falls on a Monday. Stores that are normally closed on Sunday will open that morning so everyone can procure their meal fixings.
We tried to discover the reason behind some of these odd hours, but we were answered with blinks. When our friends don’t know the answer to such inquiries they shrug and say, “Boh. E cosi.” Who knows? That’s how it is.
Easter was Sunday. In Italy, Monday is also a holiday, and everyone took advantage of it to create a long weekend. Tuesday would be the start of the work week, right? In any other land, maybe.
On Wednesday I tried to visit our contemporary art museum. The hours are posted on a bronze plaque, and I happen to know from previous trial-and-error that Monday is a normal closure. Now remember, folks, I went on Wednesday. Naturally, the gate was locked. I looked closer at the sign which said, “Closed Mondays and days after holidays.” Tuesday wasn’t a holiday, but it was the day after a holiday, meaning the museum would have been closed Tuesday. But because so many people take long-weekend mini-vacations to include Monday, they figure Tuesday is their travel-back-home day, and consider that a holiday as well. Still with me?
Monday – holiday. Tuesday – not a true holiday, but everyone counts it to be one. Wednesday, - the day after the non-holiday meant that the museum was closed.
The weird thing is, that is starting to make perfect sense to me. I think I’m getting the hang of these Italian hours, after all.
copyright 2007 Valerie Schneider