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.”