Monday, April 30, 2012

Bridges

Italy has eleven national public holidays, compared to the eight in Wales and England. There are also public holidays that celebrate the patron saint of each city, for example Milan's has a holiday on the 7th of December for the feast day of saint Ambrose (Sant Ambrosio in Italian). Tomorrow is the festa dei lavoratori or festa del lavoro, International Worker's Day. But for many today has also been a holiday. My part of Milan has been deserted. There's little traffic and few people around, and a lot of shops and businesses are closed.

What a lot of Italians do when they can is called a ponte, or a bridge. When a holiday falls in the middle of the week, especially on Tuesdays or Thursdays, they then make a bridge which goes from the weekend to the holiday, getting an extra day or even two out of the bank holiday. In tomorrow's case the bridge away from work goes from the weekend that's just been, with people then returning to work on Wednesday. The 25th was also a public holiday last week, which celebrates the liberation of Italy from Fascist rule in 1945. Some people I know also took Thursday and Friday off work to make a long ponte that lasted until the weekend. I've even heard of some who managed to blag a ponte lasting from last Wednesday to this Wednesday, covering both holidays and all the weekdays inbetween!

Unlike British bank holidays, almost all Italian bank holidays (the only exception is Easter Monday) are on certain dates, unlike the British holidays which are very nearly all on Mondays or Fridays. It does mean that some holidays can land on weekends, for example this year June 2nd's Festa della Repubblica (Republic Day, which celebrates the establishment of the Italian republic following a referendum in 1946) is on a Saturday. Last year Italy had two holidays in one day, with Easter Monday falling on the 25th of April. Don't feel too bad for the Italians missing out on holidays though, they more than make up for them with their various bridges!

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