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ITALY IN RECESSION

HOLIDAY

Crisis-hit shops scrap traditional August break

The August exodus from Rome can certainly be felt in parts of the city, with many shops, restaurants and bars having closed for their annual holiday. But some are breaking from tradition and staying open, The Local has discovered.

Crisis-hit shops scrap traditional August break
Some Italian businesses have abandoned their traditional August break. Photo: The Local

It’s August and you’ve run out of milk, but there are no shops open.

Instead, you’re faced with a cheery sign at the local grocery shop saying, “On holiday! See you in September!”

While many business owners are sticking to their traditional lengthy break, especially over the Ferragosto holiday on August 15th, others are either staying open or reducing their hours as they try to weather the persistent financial crisis.

Alessandro, the owner of Elettro Club, an electrical goods shops in northern Rome, told The Local he has not taken an August break for a couple of years, even though the flow of custom reduces to a trickle during the month.

“Now I just reduce the hours in August. I open a little later in the morning but close for three hours during the day,” he said.

“I only take two days off over the Ferragosto weekend, that’s it. I can’t afford to close for longer than that or pay for a longer holiday. Small businesses are being suffocated, not only by high taxes but by the big commercial centres.”

Carlo Alberto Tosi, who owns a nearby pasta shop, is also staying open, but only in the morning.

“We’ve already taken a holiday, and while a lot of shops still close I’ve noticed some around here are staying open,” he said.

“Business is still slow, more or less the same as it was last year; people have cut back.”

But one person’s pain is another’s gain: Tosi is jubilant that residents from the apartment building next door have been forced to buy pre-cooked meals from his shop after their gas supply was cut off.

“They won’t have any gas until the end of September! So we’ve had some good business in what is usually the slowest month of the year.”

Meanwhile, fewer shops in the northern city of Turin have closed in August this year, according to a report in La Stampa earlier this week.

“Walking around the city, there’s a feeling that there are a lot less ‘closed for vacation’ signs than in previous years,” the article said.

The city's council also announced that 25 percent of businesses providing basic needs, including petrol stations, will stay open.

Pasquale Rubino, who owns a bar in the Flaminio area of Rome, told The Local he has no choice but to abandon the August break.

“We took a week or so last year but can’t afford to do it this year,” he said.

“We’re family run, so just take it in turns to have a few days off now and then.”

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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

IN MAPS: A brief introduction to Italy’s many local ‘dialects’

Are the Italians around you speaking a completely different language? Why are local dialects often so far removed from modern Italian? Here's what you need to know.

IN MAPS: A brief introduction to Italy's many local 'dialects'
A man wearing a t-shirt reading ''100% Venetian''. Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP

It's the problem italian language learners have faced for as long as anyone can remember. You've diligently studied your Italian grammar, and carefully practiced your phrases ahead of your first visit to Italy, only to realise upon arrival that the Italians around you seem to be speaking a different language entirely.

READ ALSO: Ten of the most common Italian language mistakes you should avoid

Italy's dialects are far more than just heavily-accented Italian. They seem like totally different languages because, in fact, that's exactly what they are.

It's not quite correct to call them “dialects”, which are actually variants on a standard language. These are different languages which evolved separately from Latin – or, in some cases, other languages.

And even when they switch to Italian, speakers of these dialects or languages often speak with a heavy accent, much to the dismay of anyone still getting to grips with with basic Italian. Even in a big city like Florence or Rome, Italian spoken in a thick local accent can be hard to decipher – even for native Italian speakers from other areas.

As the map below shows, every region and often province has its own local language. Some have more than one, and each town may also have a variation.

Many of these are part of language “families” and some are more closely related to Italian, or to Latin, than others.

The map below classifies them further and also shows how languages in different regions are connected.

Map: Antonio Ciccolella/Wikimedia Commons

This might look complicated, but anyone who lives in a small italian town will no doubt still be thinking that a more detailed map is needed, as there are actually many more, smaller variations within these categories.

Do people in Italy really still speak all of these dialects?

The language we call Standard Italian derives from 13th-century Florentine. Until then, there had been no written rules, and the languages of what is now Italy had mainly evolved by being spoken.

When Italy was unified in 1861, only 2.5 percent of the population could actually speak the Italian language. All spoke their regional languages. Now, that figure is in the high 90s, though around five percent still speak only or predominantly in their regional language.

 
While you might imagine that these dialects or languages are mainly used by older people and are slowly dying out, that's not usually the case. 
 
While they'll also speak standard Italian, you'll find young Italians proudly speaking their local lingo everywhere from central Naples to the valleys of South Tyrol.
 
Some are far more widely used than others. In fact the most widely spoken is Neapolitan, with over five million speakers today.
 
The least widely-used is Croato. This dialect is used by an ethnic minority from a region corresponding to present-day Croatia and is spoken in the southern region of Molise. Today it only around 1,000 speakers.
 
In the southernmost parts of Italy, such as Salento and Calabria, Griko dialects are thought to derive from ancient Greek.
 
Meanwhile, Sardinian is classified as an “endangered” language by Unesco,  Like Italian, Sardinian has roots in Latin – in fact, some linguists argue that, of all the modern Romance languages, Sardinian is the closest to Latin – but it also displays much older influences. Today, particularly younger people on the island speak a mix of both languages, a sort of “Sarditalian”.
 
For more details, here are our guides to getting started with some of Italy's regional languages:

 

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