The Italian Summer
There is always something so nostalgic about summers in Italy. Perhaps it is because I first arrived to Bologna in late May, so my first cultural lessons in Italy centred on understanding the summer behaviours.
Arriving from Texas, where everyone tries to spend as much time indoors to escape the heat, it is exactly the opposite in Italy where people use every excuse to be outdoors, with sidewalk cafes spilling over into the streets, the piazzas filled until all hours of the night, and even the main Piazza Maggiore of Bologna transforms into an open-air cinema.
It is not uncommon to find stores and offices closing for "summer hours", which vary from closing early on a Saturday afternoon, to closing for the entire month of August (rarely is this seen anymore, but sometimes you can find that brazen shopkeeper who hangs the "chiuso for ferie" sign even in late July). *note that whilst this may make Italians seem like they don't work as much, this is hardly the case as during the rest of the year, the Italian workday hours are rather long.
The cities empty out starting in July, becoming almost deserted in August, except for the tourists. The population migrates to the coastal towns, where the seaside is packed with the beach-club "bagni", a concept completely foreign to me, having grown up near the Texas coast where the beaches are open and free. The beach clubs, as seen in the photo above, first struck me as money-making eyesores, forcing you to pay for a bed and umbrella and packing people in like sardines, leaving hardly a square meter of free sand. It took me a while to embrace them, but now I appreciate the convenience of the services they offer: changing rooms, spritzes and snacks served beachside, and especially great people-watching :)
The season also presents a whole new menu, with items reserved almost exclusively for the summer months:
- Caffe "shakerato": a hand-shaken iced-coffee, typically served in all of its frothy goodness in a martini glass
- Piadine: a flatbread originating on the Adriatic coast, served stuffed with cold cuts, cheeses, or even with Nutella
- Granita: a semi-frozen Sicilian speciality made in flavours such as coffee, almond, pistacchio, or various fruits
The Italian summer evokes a feeling of almost being a child again, where the summer means things slowing down a little and a break in the yearly routines, allowing for a re-charge and giving a little excitement to the "rientro" (return) in the fall, when you can reunite with friends and chat about their summer vacations. With spritzes, of course.