You would have thought that with Easter coming so late this year (the last weekend of April) Italians, or any other population, would be more than glad of an extra day off in March to celebrate the 150th anniversary of their country.
Not so. Nothing is ever quite that simple in Italy. The day of festa nazionale was decided some weeks ago by President Napolitano after a meeting with his government to discuss the anniversary commemorations. On March 17th 1851 the country’s unification process officially began and Italy as a country (albeit not quite complete) was born.
The one-off day of national celebrations, as indeed most of the ‘unification’ idea, is not seen well by the Lega Nord party, who hold a significant slice of parliament and government, and are more for dividing Italy through ‘federalism’, not to mention North being seperated from South. But no! cry their government ally Alleanza Nazionale, the traditionally patriotic right-wing party, usually best represented by defence minister Ignazio La Russa who says it’s already been decided so a holiday it will be! Enter Confindustria leader Emma Marcigaglia (pic. right) stating as representative of trade and industry, that the in times of economic crisis Italy cannot afford a day off with subsequent fall in production, which would cost the economy around 4 billion euros. Minister for Economic Development Paolo Romani (PdL) however says that just this once Italians can afford take a day off and the country would not suffer. Moderate trade union UIL chips in to compromise saying that it should be unified with the annual day of the Republic on 2nd June, then everyone will be happy.
Institutional squabbling aside, most Italians remain either indifferent or blissfully even unaware of the planned one-off holiday, many considering it as something which involves public sector workers only. As most public holidays are rooted in religious tradition (Easter Monday, All Saints’ Day, Christmas, St Stephen’s Day etc.) they are more likely to remember March 19th (St Joseph’s Day = Father’s Day) than the 17th. Even the 2nd June ‘Republic Day’ is often frowned upon by many and is little cause for any kind of celebration.
However, at least 1st May as Workers’ Day survives, although with its “communist” tag one is inclined to think that given the current political tendencies and Sergio Marchionne’s industry reforms, its “days” are very much numbered.