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I Just Love The Italian Custom Of Closing Shop For Lunch!

Discussion in 'General Discussion About Italy' started by ralmom101013, Feb 7, 2015.

  1. Upon reading about different Italian customs, I found out that most Italian shops close from 1 to 4PM for lunch time so that they can go home and spend it with their families. I think it is so wonderful that Italians keep family so close and they hold them to such importance still. I feel like that is one quality in the US that we need to take note from Italy. They seem to keep family structure to such high moral and that is so awesome!

    I think the fact that store owners are willing to turn down business (though I am not sure how many would actually venture out during lunch knowing that most venues are closed) in order to spend time with their families is very admirable. It just shows that they have great priorities in place, and always put their family first. How do you feel about this custom?
  2. At first, I found it weird :p Honestly. And most of the people who visit Italy for the first time (like, many of my friends from home) are weirded out by this custom:D But yes, it's a wonderful thing.

    Not everyone closes for lunch though, most factories (the big ones) will probably not close for lunch, especially if people work in shifts. But stores, bars, small shops, they are obliged by law to close down at least 1-2 hours for lunch time.

    To me, this is such a wonderful thing! You get to either spend one hour with your family, or if you don't have the possibility to go home for lunch, at least you take a break from work and socialize with your colleagues or something. But, what's most important is the health aspect! I cannot imagine not eating lunch from Monday to Friday. Skipping meals is not healthy, so a break for lunch is actually very welcomed!
    ralmom101013 likes this.
  3. It's great that such a tradition can exist in the 21st century, as everywhere else just chases money by staying open. The importance of the family unit should continue to be celebrated. And this custom is only a good thing in supporting it.
    ralmom101013 likes this.
  4. It's very different when you live with it. Of course you get used to it, but you have to be more organized and make sure you have all your groceries and if you want anything you have to wait or make sure you have a stockpile.

    It's not always convenient, for example I was living in a rural town and the only place that sold bus tickets was the coop(supermarket) and it closed from 12.30-5.30 p.m., each day for lunch and the bus was at 3.30 p.m., so I couldn't get a ticket. Fortunately a friend had some spares and gave me one otherwise I wouldn't have been able to get the bus.

    Another thing, sorry to reign on the parade, pharmacies close too, so if you need to get cough medicine or tablets in an emergency you can't. There are a few that do stay open and they are listed on the window of the closed ones for this reason, but it is something to be aware of. You can't run into the local CVS or Boots to grab something, you have to wait until they open again which is about 3 p.m.
    ralmom101013 and serialexpat like this.
  5. It is a charming custom and nice that Italians still hold on to old traditions such as this. It shows how family life and health is important to Italians. The fact that the family is at home together at lunch time gives them that extra time together and most likely you can have a healthier lunch at home. I do understand that it can be an inconvenience if you have an emergency, such as a health issue. But, for the most part, if you are aware of the custom, you can most likely plan around it. It is a part of life in Italy and people have worked with it for so many years that I don't think the custom would have survived if the majority thought of it as an inconvenience.

    In Spain they have siesta in the similar manner. They also stay open late and eat dinner late and head home late. Are Italians the same in that manner? Do they stay open later to make up for that lunch time that they are closed? I think this practice also adds to the quality of life for Italians.
    ralmom101013 likes this.
  6. This seems to be going away somewhat in Italy actually. At least in Rome. You still have the smaller shops, pharmacies, post offices closing midday but almost all the commercial centers and bigger stores are open all day until 9:30-10pm at night. They are also staying open Sunday now which even a few years ago was rare. I personally hate the midday closures. It makes it impossible to get anything done. Especially if you and your partner both work. It's just a hassle. The Italians in my life find it annoying but dont complain a lot since it's just the way things are and have always been. I didn't think it could get worse until we moved to France and had to deal with not only the midday closing, but everything closed on Sunday and most grocery stores closing at 7pm weekdays. Your constantly having to rush around after work to get a loaf of bread and battling everyone else doing the same! I'll always be a fan of the way Americans do it in the U.S. where most things are 24/7. I also think this would help create more jobs for people here too. More hours = more shifts= more employees. The crisis is real over here.
    ralmom101013 likes this.
  7. It's a custom that has its merits. When I lived there, yes it was good to have lunch and not rush, but then I had no shops to browse, but that saves you money! Not everyone can go home for lunch though as many people do commute. It would be idealistic to think that everyone did and they don't in reality, hence some people end up having affairs with time on their hands.

    During the tourist trade they cannot afford to, because people still want ice creams and to buy drinks. They could close and have a family lunch, but the revenue they would make would probably pay for a few dinners. In the South the lunch time can be a lot longer and basically the stores open for a few hours before dinner time and then close for dinner!
    ralmom101013 likes this.
  8. I never thought of it being inconvenient, you've made some great points! I never really thought of how much of a hassle it would be if you lived there and had to form your daily routine around so many shops closing when you need them. I suppose it makes sense that it would get in the way of a lot of things such as errands, because if you are on your lunch break and using the time to get things done, and other's are taking that time off to close their business, it would be hard to get anything done unless you went cities away!
  9. My uncle did this always, he owns his shop and he gets up very early for it, so at lunchtime he enjoys a good meal with his family and then he naps before going back to work up to late (at least 9PM). I think without the break, he could not manage it, even when business is slow!

    I think the custom is a way of seeing how many small local businesses are still running. When you think of it, like people said before, any big place that works in shift and has many employees would not bother with stopping production/close for a few hours. But if you have a small place and just a few people working, especially if it's family, then it's really nicer if all of you can go and enjoy a nice lunch together. In our American world, with shifts, it would make no sense, though.
  10. @serialexpat has a point, not all cities kept this custom, there are the big cities such as Rome or others that don't close everything down for lunch. A friend of mine remembers her last visit to Rome, years ago, and she told me she was annoyed by this as well because she didn't expect everything to be closed at lunch! Except for the restaurants / pizzerias / other places you can have a meal, everything was closed! This was years ago though, but nowadays it seems that the big cities have changed or "adapted" their schedule with what most tourists want.

    Also, the thing about emergencies.
    Most people here will already have some medicine at home. So, if they get a real bad headache during lunch, they won't have to look for a pharmacy, they will probably already have a "stash of pills" ready for things like this :) For bigger emergencies, there are the hospitals. They never close down for lunch :D lol!

    @Regina Juno I was also gonna mention Spain! :) They do have the siesta and, just like Italians, most of them prefer not to work if their job doesn't have a lunch break! haha! So, yes, between lunchtime and 3 p.m., almost nobody works, but they do make up for it, people who have lunch breaks either begin work earlier (at 6 - 7 a.m. or so) or they work until late in the afternoon.
  11. Huh, I never knew about that custom! It reminds of how everything (used to be) closed on Sundays here in the States. Or how most shops close at 6pm in London. Which was so bizarre to me, because the earliest people close in the states is probably 9 at night. But I'm not sure how I feel about that. You would think those times would be peak food selling times?
  12. I love this. Base on this tradition, the Italians really value their disposition. Having time to enjoy your lunch and relax midday is a great way to improve your wellness.

    If only other countries can follow this tradition.
  13. In rural places I am sure people still close the shop or put the answer machine on because they don't have the staff to cover, so it's more of a necessity than for any other reason. Those are smaller businesses, but these days in cities, if a phone isn't answered withing so many rings then people panic. As society has become 24/7 people do expect too much and even when you hear, "They're out at lunch,' you ask 'When will they be back?'
  14. I absolutely love this tradition, and I think it would be wonderful if this tradition existed in other countries as well (I'm talking specifically about the UK). Here, it's normal for people to work straight through lunch. They'll just be chewing a sandwich or munching on a salad while doing the work. Some people even skip meals, which is incredibly unhealthy. Lots of places do have lunch breaks, but they're only around half an hour. There's never a chance of going and meeting your family, unlike the Italian tradition. I think the expectations are only getting higher and higher, and most people expect you to be working around the clock, and that 'meals shouldn't hold up work'.
  15. I think it's a wonderful thing too. I think as long as you are prepared in advance, there's a certain charm about the fact that they still close for lunch. I think a lot of the time these days we do truly expect everything to be available to us whenever we want it to be - there's supermarkets open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week - and you really have to think to yourself "what kind of impact does that have on the people that work there?"

    It's nice to sometimes slow down, step back and remember what's truly important in life!
  16. I remember when I first visited Italy and I was unaware that a lot of places closed in the afternoon, and we was walking round trying to find a place to eat or at least to buy snacks from and I remember thinking, this can't be right? And thinking there must have been some public holiday I wasn't aware of!

    It does take a bit of getting used to, especially when you go from a country such as the UK, when most places in the city will be open non stop from 8am right up until gone midnight sometimes.

    I do think it's a custom or tradition that might be decreasing though, especially in the major cities in Italy.
  17. Yes, the same happened when I visited Italy. In the UK not even one eatery actually bothers closing for lunch, since lots of people come there at that time. Many Italian eateries close for lunch, and although it's a sweet tradition, if you're from a place like the UK it makes things a little more difficult to manage!
    pwarbi likes this.
  18. It was difficult at first to get used to because like you say, being from the UK you just go as and when you want, places are always open. That's not the case in Italy, as I found out. In fact it took me a couple of days to remember and there was a couple of times I was left hungry because I went to get some lunch and everything was closed. By the time I was due to fly back I was only just getting used to it!
  19. Siesta. I went to Italy about 10 years ago with my friend. We stayed in a small town in Southern Italy. Every day we would take the bus down the mountain and all the shops would be closed for hours in the middle of the day. The whole town pretty much shut down and we would be the only ones walking around the town.

    Going out for lunch isn’t very popular in Southern Italy. Most people eat lunch home and go back to work after. I don’t know how it is in the Northern part. I imagine in touristy areas the shops and restaurants would stay open to gain the lunch business.
  20. You are right, most places would only open for lunch if they were tourist destinations and cities where offices were. I remember my first day in Florence and we decided to have a late lunch (about 2 p.m. ) and found all places were closing and wouldn't serve us. It's not a social activity, as dinner is, or having a coffee in a bar.

    Even in cities some places will close by 2.30 p.m. for the lunch service and the kitchen would close by 1.30 p.m. as in no more orders to be taken.

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