Those of you who are regular readers probably realize by now that Tuscans (and all Italians) live life as an art form; using all the senses, paying attention to each moment or detail, celebrating traditions and family, being endlessly inquisitive, highlighting one’s individuality and finding many outlets for creativity. Life is like a blank canvas and you must execute the painting that is most meaningful for you. What you may not know is that Italians also have more time at their leisure to enjoy life than anyone else.
Apparently, the Italian government is on board with the concept of living life to the fullest. I read with interest a report from the World Tourism Organization (WTO) on the number of official holidays per country per year. Italians have more holidays (42) than citizens of any other major country. You will probably not be surprised to know that US citizens have the lowest number of national holidays of any major industrialized country (13). Even the super industrious Japanese have 25 official holidays. The ever efficient Germans have 35 holidays, and the French have 37.
I have to wonder what this all means. Why is there so much difference between the number of holidays in the US as compared to other countries? What do other countries know that we don’t know? The high number of U.S. working days does not seem to help in a bad economy and it probably impacts our overall attitude towards life. Americans just don’t have as much time to enjoy life and have fun.
As we move towards a new year, and ponder more than ever on what is really important in life, we might learn something from the Italian attitude. Although our new administration will probably not be moving towards 42 official holidays anytime soon, let’s concentrate on making the most of any free time we have and live a more Dolce Vita (sweet life).
Buon Anno (Happy New Year)!
New Year’s Eve is known as la Festa di San Silvestro (Feast of St. Sylvester) in Italy. New Year’s Day is called Capodanno. On either day, you will find people celebrating by eating lentils (symbolizing wealth) or pork specialties such as cotechino or zampone (stuffed pork sausage or stuffed pig’s trotter) symbolizing richness for the coming year.
If you possessed x-ray vision, you would find yourself in a sea of red as many Italians don new red underwear to bring good luck in the New Year.
At midnight, there are fireworks displays throughout Italy with the largest and longest taking place in Piazza del Popolo in Rome. The fireworks last for an hour and this is a true celebration for all (no reservations). As a result, people camp out for as much as a week in advance to secure a good spot. They are also treated to a concert that goes on for hours both before and after the fireworks.