To the outsider it would appear that the nation of Italy, without rhyme nor reason, shuts down for much of the month of August. Take a closer look and this apparent madness, or laziness as some would have it, begins to make a whole lot of sense. The month of August follows the traditional period of hard labour that was bringing in the year’s harvest, and so both workers and working animals had earned a decent holiday.
The holidays were named and so concreted by that Roman Empire, which we have so much to be thankful for/ blame on, when the Emperor Augustus instigated the Feriae Augusti, the festivals or holidays of Augustus. It was also way back in Roman times that the famous horse race, the Palio in Sienna was founded, and to this day lives on celebrated on 16 August each year.
In more recent times, during the Fascist period in Italy, the ‘People’s Trains of Ferragosto’ were introduced, which provided families with government subsidised trips to holiday destinations for two or three days and so began the tradition of journeying to the seaside or some such for the summer.
These days many Italians still follow in their forefathers’ footsteps and head to the mountains/ the seaside for the holiday period, leaving the cities and land-locked areas of the country pretty much empty. So yes, visit an Italian city in August and you’ll find a ghost town. But do as the natives do, relax, be on holiday! Lie on the beautiful beaches, stroll in the afternoon heat, mooch around the few shops that open and patronise the array of restaurants that will be open for holiday service.
In fact, there seems to be much wisdom in having a proper good holiday, so I propose we lobby for a similar tradition here in the UK. Who’s with me?
On my very first trip to Naples, I fell in love – the city has a wild, independent spirit that can be intimidating, but is also incredibly attractive. Since coming back, I have been practically evangelistic about the place, so completely does Naples have my heart. It is a modern city in an ancient setting, or an ancient city in a modern world, or something like that….either way it’s completely unique and demands a visit.
In a charming little junk shop in the historical quarter of the city, I found these vintage postcards which capture something of the romantic, ancient mood of the city. They show Naples’ softer side, which isn’t easy to find, but it’s definitely there!
Naples’ seafront stretches endlessly ahead.
The city has a wonderfully higgledy-piggledy layout that’s almost maze-like in it’s ability to captivate you and have you wandering aimlessly but perfectly happily for hours!
The majestic Mount Vesuvius stands watch over the bay of Naples, an instantly recognisable and inescapable landmark.
Parts of the city seem unchanged for years and it’s easy to imagine yourself in any year of the last century!
Mergellina beach where apparently the best ice-cream in Naples is to be found – that’s for another trip!
Beautiful, isn’t it? Dreaming of a Napoli summer holiday?
This little Napoli treasure is so secret, even the taxi driver didn’t know where it was… what with my non-existent Italian and the taxi driver ignorant of its existence, just getting to this restaurant was a minor triumph, but it sure was worth it. A tiny little place, like someone’s kitchen, just off the sea front in Naples, Il Miracolo die Pesci da Claudio is run by a husband-wife duo and is a homely, rustic and entirely charming affair!
The menu is written anew each day based on the catch of the day. It doesn’t get much fresher than that! Being entirely devoted to fish and seafood, this wonderful establishment serves the stuff up in ways you’d never dreamt of. Eating food this good and fish this fresh, in a tiny nook of such a beautiful city really does feel miraculous.
Not content with just doing fish to perfection, the restaurant served up a platter of desserts that I miraculously found room for in my previously sated stomach!