Posted by: debrakolkka | January 3, 2011

Public Holidays in Italy

flag throwers

We came upon a competition for flag throwing in Alba, Piedmonte as part of the truffle festival.  Italian festivals can be so much fun if you are lucky enough to come across one.

When you are travelling for pleasure, every day is a holiday.  However, it is good idea to be aware of the public holidays in the country you are visiting.  It will obviously make a difference to public transport schedules, among other things.

Here is a list of public holidays in Italy for 2011.  These are country wide holidays.  Each region may have others.  You will need to keep your eyes and ears open to detect these.

January:

Capodanno – 1st

Epifania –  6th

April:

Lunedi di Pasqua -25th (different each year)

Liberazione Italia -25th

May:

Festa del Lavoro – 1st    Most towns celebrate this day with a fair and a parade of some kind.  We often go to the nearby festival for a great day.

the porchetta stand at the 1st May celebrations at Fornaci di Barga

June:

Festa della Republica Italia  – 2nd

August: 

Ferragosto –  15th    Make sure you are not travelling on this day if you can help it.  Half of Italy takes its vacation in the first 2 weeks of August and the rest, the  second 2 weeks.  Ferragosto is change over day, when all of Italy is in transit.

November:

Ognissanti –  1st.    This is the day when people visit the graves of their relatives to tidy them and take flowers.  They do this on other occasions as well, but this is the official day.

December:

Immacolata Concezione –  8th

Natale –  25th

Santo Stefano – 26th

Local buses and trains will operate on a Sunday/Public Holiday timetable.  On a couple of these holidays there will be no local buses at all.  Make enquiries prior to travelling, you don’t want to be stranded.  Eurostar trains don’t seem to be affected by the holidays too much.

I would like to be able to give you good information about shop opening times, but that remains a mystery to me.  Apart from a few major cities such as Rome, Florence and Milan, most towns in Italy practise siesta.  Usually businesses open at around 10.00 am, close at 12.30 or 1.00pm and reopen at 3.30 or 4.00pm until 7.30pm.

I can see this would have been an excellent system when people lived above their businesses, or nearby at least.  They could close for a few hours and go home for lunch, have a snooze, play with the children etc, but now few people live near where they work and how they fill in this time is beyond me.  It makes for a very long work day.  It is also very annoying for tourists who arrive in a town around lunch time, only to find everything (except restaurants and cafes) closed for 3 hours.  It can be very frustrating.  I do realise that this is all part of the charm of Italy, but sometimes it is not very charming.

As well as siesta, many shops do not open on Mondays until 3.30 0r 4.00pm.  In some places, eg Forte dei Marmi, because they open on Sundays, the shops are closed all day Monday and open on Tuesdays at 3.30 or 4.00pm.

In addition, different types of business have an afternoon off here and there.  Bakeries may take Wednesday afternoon off, fruit and vegetable shops may make it Tuesday and so on.  I have given up trying to work this one out.  Some places are keeping more friendly hours, but don’t count on shops being open when you want them to be.  In Australia everything seems to be open all the time.  I don’t think this is necessary either.  It suits large operations (eg Myer) and helps them to take business away from small retailers.  We have been (falsely) led to believe that the rest of the world operates 24 hours a day.

The other thing to look out for in Italy is SCIOPERO.  I have put this is large letters because you need to know this word.  It means ” strike” and SCIOPERI happen regularly in Italy.  They generally last about 3 hours and are a complete nuisance.  Mostly the public is notified in advance – look for notices.   I always travel to Rome the day before I have to catch an international flight, just to be sure I will get to the airport on time.  A day in Rome never hurts, of course.

Have a great trip, don’t be afraid to ask questions.  Don’t assume that things are the same as at home.


Responses

  1. Great information. Not only on the holidays but also the opening hours of businesses. I would have found this very useful.

    If I may, I’d also like to give some helpful information to tourists thinking of visiting Italy from non EU countries. If at all possible, avoid going to an exchange place. I was ripped off at Milan airport when I arrived. Not because my money was stolen, just in the percentage they charged. I was lucky enough to have an Italian friend who took my American dollars to a bank and had them exchanged there. Barely paid any exchange commissions and got the best rate. So if you are traveling with foreign currency, try having a hotel concierge or friend take your money to the bank for you to exchange. Other than that, use the ATMs. You’ll also get the day’s best rate and avoid commissions.

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    • Yes, airports are not usually the best places to change money. Even though you pay a fee at an ATM, the exchange rate is current and the charges not too high. Some banks will change money for you, but not all. Small banks in smaller towns do not have the facilities to do this, but there is usually at least one ATM on offer. Remember to cover the touchpad when you type in your pin.

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      • From what my friend told me, most Italian banks would not change my money because I do not have an EU passport, that is why she did it for me.

        All the tour guides on Italy had me believing every person standing next to me was going to pick my pocket, especially if they were wearing a suit. I bought a man purse and strapped it across my chest to prevent pickpockets from swiping my money and passport.

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      • I don’t believe you were given the correct information about changing money in banks. We have done this on several occasions and we don’t have EU passports. Certain places in Italy, such as Termini Station in Rome, can be excellent places for pickpockets, but I think that can be the case in any busy place where you might look a bit lost. I have not found Italy to be any more dangerous or frightening than other places. I often travel alone and feel quite safe.

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  2. Excellent advice & information. Just wishing I was travelling through Italy this year to visit some of these wonderful parades.

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  3. The very best rates are pre-loaded cards. Safe to carry as well. Check them out on the web.

    Best,

    Mike

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    • Thank you for your suggestion. We now have an Italian bank account, so we are covered from every angle. The banks in Italy don’t pay interest on your money. That’s a good trick isn’t it?

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  4. Thanks for the information Debra! And interesting follow up comments too 🙂

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  5. Good info for the next time I make it to Italy.

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  6. Great Idea to post these dates and of course, I love the photos.

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    • I did it for myself as well. I can never remember these things.

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