Fare il ponte ('to do the bridge'), if you don't already know, is the practice of taking an extra day off when a public holiday falls on a Tuesday or Thursday – or, if you're particularly audacious, a Wednesday – instead of next to a weekend, in order to create one continuous break.
And this April and May are full of opportunities to try it out. Thanks to a late Easter falling closer than usual to secular spring holidays, many Italians will be bundling up their free days off into a break of up to two weeks.
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Photo: Mario Laporta/AFP
School kids are the ones who stand to benefit most from the 'super bridge', as it's been dubbed: while Good Friday is surprisingly not a public holiday in Italy and workers are only granted Easter Sunday and Monday (Pasquetta, or 'little Easter') off, state schools typically close from Thursday to Tuesday over the holiday weekend. Most kids began their break today, April 18th.
They could go back to class on Wednesday 24th… but the next day, April 25th, is Italy's Liberation Day, a celebration of the end of the Nazi occupation during World War Two and a national holiday. And by then it's practically the next weekend, so what's the point?
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Ok, but the following week it must be back to the grindstone, right? Well… look what's coming up on Wednesday, May 1st: International Workers' Day. Like most countries in the EU, Italy gives everyone the day off.
Those who really commit to the 'super bridge', hailed by the Italian press as the longest ever, are therefore beginning 14 days of holiday from now until May 2nd. Employees taking leave can get two weeks for the price of one, since only seven of those days are supposed to be worked.
Having fun in Rome. Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP
Not everyone will put their feet up, of course. Even aside from those who have to work, the Ministry of Education set some notably less generous term dates for state schools in the various regions of Italy, with unlucky pupils in Lombardy, Piedmont, Emilia-Romagna, Liguria, Tuscany, Lazio, Marche, Molise, Puglia and Sardinia advised to return to class on April 23rd.
Schools in Valle d'Aosta, Veneto, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Umbria, Abruzzo, Campania, Calabria, Basilicata and Sicily are supposed to reopen on April 24th, while the lucky kids in Bolzano and Trento have been told not to go back until at least April 26th or 27th respectively.
However, these dates remain advisory only: it's up to local authorities to decide exactly when each school opens and closes, so long as they fit in at least 200 teaching days throughout the year. Many institutions have announced they'll take one, two or even all three of the 'bridges' available.
Admiring the Boboli Gardens in Florence. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP
Thousands of workers will be hoping to join them. According to hotel owners' association Federalberghi, more than 21 million Italians are planning to travel over Easter and/or the May Day weekend, with 87 percent of them choosing to stay in Italy. If you're heading anywhere in Italy over the next two weeks, be prepared for higher prices, longer lines and booked-out B'n'Bs.
But the 'super bridge' isn't the only chance to take a break, for kids at least: those whose schools are used as polling stations can expect a couple of days off around May 26th for the European elections and, in nearly 4,000 municipalities, mayoral elections the same day (as well as potential mayoral run-offs on June 9th). Unions are also threatening a general strike on May 17th that would see schools across the country closed.
Most workers, though, will have to wait until August for their next free day off: Italy's early summer public holiday, Republic Day on June 2nd, this year falls on a Sunday.
After that there are no freebies until August 15th, Assumption day or Ferragosto, which in 2019 is mercifully… a Thursday.
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