Although in more recent years Italians have take their holiday breaks earlier in the summer (after all the school holidays last from mid June to mid September!) August is still the traditional holiday month in Italy, and the majority will religiously plan their holidays around Ferragosto which falls on the 15th. Factories, offices and other workplaces will invariably close for at least one or two or more weeks in August in a kind of mutually unspoken agreement where everyone seems to be ‘chiuso per ferie‘ and everthing is postponed “a settembre..“.
News bulletins invariably show servizi of traffic queues, crowded beaches, hot and bothered tourists and the like as x number of millions of “italiani” (non-Italians are rarely considered in such statistics!) go in vacanze.
There are two words for ‘holidays’ (or vacation for US friends) in Italian: ferie e vacanze. Ferie usually means time off from work whereas vacanze is usually referred to going off somewehere ‘on holiday/vacation’. Further consideration however has revealed that this rule of thumb is not quite true as you may be asked “Dove vai in vacanze?” (where are you going for your hols?) just as easily as “Dove vai in ferie?“. However when taking time off work you would say “Ho prese delle ferie” (not vacanze in this case).
The traditional salutation before leaving is of course “Buone ferie!” or “Buone vacanze!”
Most italiani will course head to the seaside/beaches “al mare” or the mountains “in montagna” and although there is no Italian word for “sightseeing” it’s something they are very good at and armed with guidebooks and maps many will head towards “le città d’arte” usually abroad “all’estero” since, as many will tell you, Italian cities are usually too hot to vist in the summer (Although many will go to Spain, Greece etc!). It’s still quite comforting to find deserted cities in the central August weeks, with just the odd foreign tourist around the place. Just try looking for a plumber / electrician / mechanic!
Well Italy for Beginners is no exception to the Ferragosto rule, as we take two weeks off in August and head off to join the traffic queues in order to relax and refuel on packed beaches and crowded coastal cities.