Art, Travel & Life in Italy & Europe

You know that I don’t normally complain about things in Florence. When they closed the Duomo area to busses and increased our morning commutes by anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes, I advised patience.

Perhaps it’s because it’s 40 degrees outside that I have somewhat lost my patience. I’m writing this post from a bus on which the air-conditioning is broken and dripping on all the seats; yesterday’s bus simply did not have a/c. Of course the bus is full and people have to stand in the aisles, looking longingly at the empty seats that line the right side of the vehicle.

On the whole, the ATAF bus system in the summer is absurd. When schools let out, they cut the schedule in half. Why? There seem to be plenty of people taking the bus, but the schedule cut is an annual tradition based on out-dated social practises as follows:

Myth/tradition #1: While traditionally Italian families move to the beach in July and August — and the typical middle class woman’s job was schoolteacher to accommodate kids’ morning-only school hours and 3 months of summer holiday — more and more women are working in other fields that don’t offer this “benefit”. So they’re here in the city.

Myth/tradition #2: Another tradition is company closure in August. Yes. Whole offices, including production, close for a month. A throwback to the days before air-conditioning that forced employees to the seaside at that time. Business is still slow enough in certain fields to merit this closure: my brother in law in fact gets August off. My office closes for the two central weeks of August, but major international companies (like GE/ Nuovo Pignone with its 3500 employees in Florence) are open all summer long. So are stores.

Myth/tradition #3: Italians have a lot of holiday time. This is in part true – good contracts start at 5 weeks’ holiday plus statutory holidays and “permessi” (hours for going to the doctor, etc.). But anyone with a temporary contract has either NO or very little holiday. And with the economic crisis, families cannot afford to go on holiday (though the term “staycation” has fortunately not been invented in Italian).

Who pays the price?

ATAF Firenze’s bus system runs in the summer on the principle that there are fewer users. But who are the system’s daily users, year-round? The elderly and “workers” (lavoratori). Take any bus at 8:30am and you’ll hear all of us workers complaining because clearly we don’t count for the city, despite being the ones that carry forth the economy.

That’s all, thanks for listening to my RANT – the trip has been long enough to write this post on an iphone because with the summer schedule it takes me 25 minutes longer to get to work, but alas, now my real job calls.

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By: arttrav

Alexandra Korey aka ArtTrav is a Florence-based art historian and arts marketing consultant.

  • Suzi Jenkins

    4th myth – it's too hot to work in Florence in August.
    The hottest month of the year is July, not August.
    And if it were true it would mean that in Thailand, Iran, Arizona, Sudan and Egypt no-one can do any work – ever.

    5th myth – you can only take your summer holidays in August
    No – you can take your summer holidays in the summer.

    6th myth august is august all over the world …
    no – everyone else carries on a usual

    7th myth – Florence shuts down and nothing is open, not even hospitals
    Not true, but to be honest, if people carry on believing the above myths, suits me fine, cos I get the whole city to myself, and can park my truck in less than the two hours it normally takes,and go to the hospital ER and get seen in less that 3 days.

    And that's a 17 year pent up rant all let out in one go ……

  • Georgette Jupe

    thanks so much for posting this! I am so frustrated with ATAF! I don't have August off and rely 100% of the bus and of course being at a capolinea means the bus loves to finally arrive and say “deposito” .. not to mention the nifty rate hike which increases iliminates my worker monthly pass and I asked my bf if the rate hike would include more frequent buses to arrive to which he laughed and said “ma che.. ataf = aspettare tanta alla fermata!”

  • arttrav

    Hilarious, georgette, i didn't know that acronym. Appropriately, i am
    waiting for the bus after work right now…