21 August 2010

LIFE: The Big Vay Kay

SARONNO, Italy - It’s almost over. In another week or so Saronno will start to come back to life and the eerie silence that has hung over the town for the past month will start to fade. It was lonely walking around town today. The streets are empty, the curtains on the windows of my favorite bar are closed, the tapperelle all pulled down and a computer printed sign on the door that says: Chiuso per ferie – Ci vediamo 30 Augusto. They have been on vacation for the entire month. They are not alone. So have the butchers, the bakers and the Saronno park rakers.

Milan’s Galleria in August

In Milan the only sign of life are tourists following their designated flower on a stick through the empty corridors of the Galleria, giggling and taking photos of each other twirling around three times on the bulls privates. After a quick look at the statue of Leonardo da Vinci, and the La Scala opera house across the street, they too will be whisked away to the next stop on their tour and the sound of the city will be reduced to the dry rattle of the empty trolleys rolling up Via Manzoni. There should be large signs posted at all of the major Italian airports like the one posted on my local bar - Italia chiuso per ferie– ci vediamo in settembre – Italy is closed for vacation – See you in September.

A Trolley Just for Me

Not knowing this truest of all Italian truths was just one of the many mistakes I made when I planned my move from Philadelphia to Italy many years ago. I moved in May foolishly thinking I would be able to pick up some work teaching English over the summer months and then look for a real job in the fall. But everything, and I mean everything, was closed. The local paper would publish a list of shops where you could buy bread and milk, and that list changed daily as one shop after another shut its doors for vacation. How could anyone who grew up in a land that operates 24/7, 12 months a year ever imagine that an entire country could, and would, close down for almost the entire month of August.

It’s a Little Lonely Trolley

As fast as Italy closes down once the weather turns warm, it is slow to get back up to speed when the vacation period is over. Unfortunately the up to speed part doesn’t last very long for as the weather cools people start browsing the travel agency windows thinking about the upcoming Christmas holidays, which at this point are only a little more than a couple of months away.

Cinzia, a very nice lady I met this summer, told me she gets 32 paid vacation days a year. She can pretty much pick the days she wants off because there are only a few people in her office so they decided among themselves what days they will take. Thirty-two days may sound like a lot but it is normal in Italy, even for new hires. Of course if you work for a company for a long time you get even more vacation days added on to the thirty-two.

Closed for Vacation - Will Reopen Sept. 1, 2010

A week off at Christmas is normal with a few additional days tacked on for New Year’s, which is followed almost immediately by the Settimana Bianca, or White Week, the traditional after the holidays ski holiday that no one would dream of missing. By then it is almost March and time to start planning for Easter. There’s an old Italian saying that goes something like – Christmas with your family, Easter wherever you want  - so Easter week is the perfect time for a quick jaunt up to the mountains for one last ski weekend if there is still snow. On the other hand you may want to take a quick trip to the seaside, a sort of preliminary run to get in the mood for what’s coming – summer vacation - where anything short of two consecutive weeks is considered cruel and inhuman.

Seventy Will Reopen August 24

So here we are closing in on the end of August and my computer, which decided on August 1 to start acting up, is still acting up. While it’s not a super serious problem, it does need to be taken care of. I thought about calling my computer guy when it first happened but I know better. Even if he was in town, which I doubt, he wasn’t going to be in the mood to do any work. So I decided to just sit back, pour myself a tall glass of lemonade and take another book off the pile of “want to reads” that piled up during the year and enjoy the peace and quiet of summer in Italy. It won’t last much longer.
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