If you’ve ever been to Italy in August, you know that this is the month for ferie estive, when much of the population goes on vacation (in vacanza). Italians cherish this time of sunny days (giornate di sole), starry nights (notti stellate), lovely swims (belle nuotate), marvelous meals (pasti squisiti), visits with dear friends (amici cari) and new adventures (nuove avventure).
Ferie are also part of an old Italian tradition. In 1342 the Catholic calendar referred to every day that was not a “festivo” (Sunday or a liturgical feast) as a feria. In 1353 Giovanni Boccaccio, the master storyteller of Italian literature—and, I would venture, a great celebrator of feasts—defined ferie as a period of repose that was the right of every worker.
Italians work for their living on a giorno feriale (workday) but holidays can be paid (ferie pagate) or unpaid (ferie non pagate). The Italian term for unused paid vacation time is ferie non godute (which literally translates as holidays “not enjoyed”).
What are the essentials for a summer holiday? If you’re heading to the beach (la spiaggia) during the bathing season (stagione balneare), you’ll need several costumi da bagno (bathing suits), occhialini da nuoto (goggles), ciabatte da piscina (pool slippers) and plenty of protezione solare (sunscreen).
Once you jump into il mare (the sea) or una piscina, you can try out a variety of stili (strokes), such as rana (breast stroke), nuoto alla marinara libero (side stroke) and dorso (back stroke). If you are a diver (subacqueo) or like to snorkel (nuotare con boccaglio e maschera), you might want to pack you own pinne (flippers). Even if you can’t swim, you might enjoy fare il morto (playing dead or floating), sguazzare (splashing around), building sand castles (castelli di sabbia) or simply being a beach bum (tipo da spiaggia.
Wherever you take your holidays (prendere le ferie), we hope you can relax (rilassiarsi), unplug (staccare la spina) and delight in l'atmosfera vacanziera (the holiday atmosphere). Click here for about.com's guide to August festivals in Italy and here for Italy Magazine's list of special August events.
Buone vacanze a tutti!
Words and Expressions
Chiuso per ferie –- closed for holidays
Vacanzina, breve vacanza –- short holiday
Prendere un giorno di ferie –- to take just one day off.
Vacanza benessere -– wellness holiday, health and fitness holiday
Vacanza studio –- study holiday (usually abroad)
Dianne Hales is the author of MONA LISA: A Life Discovered and LA BELLA LINGUA: My Love Affair with Italian, the World's Most Enchanting Language.