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  • The Southern Italian Schedule
    It takes some getting used to
    Our Paesani

    by Francesca Di Meglio

    As most of you know, I spend significant amounts of time in Ischia, an island off the coast of Naples, Italy. One thing about the culture, which is typical of southern Italy, that still shocks me is the schedule that everyone keeps. It's a much more laid-back lifestyle than that of Americans - and most other industrialized nations.

    Many of my Italian friends and family wake up between 7 and 8 a.m.. They have breakfast - nothing too heavy, perhaps some espresso and a couple of cookies. Then, they head off to work or school. They are there until about 1 or 2 p.m. and then they return home for hours for lunch. The kids remain at home after lunch, whereas many of the adults return to work at about 4 or 5 p.m. and stay there until about 8 or 9 p.m. In the hours between lunch and dinner, many people either do chores in the house or take a nap. Stores, some restaurants, and other entertainment places are closed, so you don't have many options.

    In fact, I once walked down the main street in Ischia at 3 p.m. and there wasn't a single soul in the street, not even the usual beach bums making their way from the ocean to their hotels. Often, that's just how it is - a deserted oasis - during the siesta lunch. But everyone comes out of hibernation at 4 or 5 p.m. The stores start re-opening by lifting their heavy gates and turning on the lights. It's like morning all over again.

    In the evenings, people return home and eat dinner usually around 9 or 10 p.m. If you eat at home, you usually have something light - a sandwich, tomatoes and bread, or some leftovers. If you head out with your friends for dinner, then you might spend hours eating into the wee hours of the morning. Young people are especially keen on staying out until 1 or 2 a.m. I'm usually the one at the table falling asleep.

    You'll also notice that the southern Italians have a lot more vacation time than most. Many of my friends and family work in the tourism industry in Ischia, which means they work only six months. They earn unemployment during the winter, when the island is mostly closed and the natives have little to do. When the summer season is teeming with tourists, many of them spend the winter in warmer climates or visiting friends in other parts of the world. Others in full-time jobs that last all year long can sometimes get up to a full month of vacation, which is practically unheard of in the United States.

    I may never get used to the southern Italian schedule. As a New Jerseyan, I work on American time and long American hours even when I'm in Ischia. But I can see why they might think our life is too chaotic, too rushed, too full of work. Let's put it this way: They don't call the Italian life la dolce vita for nothing.

    Di Meglio is the guide to Newlyweds for About.com.

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