Sunday, March 8, 2009

Shut the Shops and Sit in the Corner

[Image: "Open/Closed", 2007, nchenga, Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic]

One of the most frustrating things about Italy (for me) is the siesta.

Between twelve and three o'clock, Trento dies. Yes, the bars and restaurants buzz with activity - but if you go to shops, bakeries, banks or offices and try to open the door, it will resist. A little sign will be in the window saying "chiuso" (closed). Perhaps people inside the building will see you pushing at the locked door, and they will laugh at you. You will be a figure of fun in the streets. For you have forgotten about siesta.

More than once I've taken a jaunty stroll to the local shop to buy some goodies for lunch and found it chiuso. Not so jaunty my return home. The idea of nipping out during your lunch-break to do a bit of shopping (or even a spot of banking) just doesn't exist in Italy.

Why does this frustrate me so? Because there's no flexibility in it. I have to carefully plot my day around the opening hours of shops and restaurants. After three o'clock, for example, all of the restaurants close down and the shops open up again. If I want to buy my lunch from a shop at two? Not possible. If I want lunch at a restaurant at three? Non è possibile. A couple of times now, Elle and I have rushed around major Italian cities looking for a restaurant still serving food for a late lunch.

Compounding this is the fact that almost everything shuts down on a Sunday. In fact, some shops even shut down at one o'clock on a Saturday and won't open again until Monday. If you don't have food in the house by noon on a Saturday, you're screwed. Even restaurants are generally shut on Sundays, so the skinny shadow of starvation looms large.

Some of this is because Trento is a small town. In Rome or Milan, shops and restaurants are more flexible. Still, in general, flexible opening hours are something I really miss about England.

If you do somehow manage to find a restaurant open in Italy, of course, then it's bloody well worth it!

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