It’s the first weekend in August, which means it’s bollino nero because of the esodo, and if you don’t do a partenza intelligente, you’re screwed. Have no idea what I’m talking about? You need an Italian summer holiday vocabulary refresher!

Bollino nero, causa esodo. Source: Panorama
Bollino nero, causa esodo. Source: Panorama

Esodo: The Exodus. An annual event of Biblical proportions, people leave the city in droves despite the previously mentioned fact that Italians don’t all go for holidays mid summer any more. But if the total silence of my residential street is any indication, most middle class city dwellers escape at this time. The beaches of Tuscany become crowded with Florentines, but the same goes for every other city and region.

Bollino Nero / Bollino Rosso: Oh no. Don’t tell me you’re thinking of driving on the highway on a day declared to be a Bollino NERO? The black death of traffic predictions, worse than the bollino rosso that characterizes pretty much the entire summer. You’re nuts.

Partenza Intelligente: If you avoid the bollino of any colour by doing a partenza intelligente – smart departure – you may just make it to your destination unfased. The real trick lies in determining what the most intelligent departure time/method is. For sure you’ll want to have your car filled and tuned in advance, not book a hairdressers’ appointment that day, pack the car a week before, and have everyone in your party already at your house/departure point well before the determined hour. Consider driving in the middle of the night – intelligent would certainly be to leave at 2am, you might not encounter traffic.

Tormentone: each summer, one or more songs are defined as a “tormentone”, a thing that tortures you at least once a day. Often this song comes out of the Festival di Sanremo.

Ferragosto: August 15th, a national holiday that is a phenomenon unto itself. I wrote this article about Ferragosto that explains the phenomenon of mass holidaying at this time of year. At the beach (where everyone already is thanks to the aforementioned esodo), people arrive at 7am in order to be sure they will have a good spot for the day’s, and night’s, activities. Free beaches become free for alls. Any shady areas will be taken by 8am. Tents and temporary shelters set up, solar-powered gigantic coolers, tables and chairs underneath, as people are ready to spend the next 24 hours there drinking beer and eating popsicles (or in Ostia, calippo e bira).

Emergenza Caldo: You’ll want to watch out for this one, a heat emergency. Stock up on calippi (plural of calippo, popsicles) and stay inside with a/c or a fan, cuz the radios say not to go outside. Or go to the beach and just lie there, taking occasional baths or showers.

Burraco: A bridge-like card game favoured by the Meridionale (southerner), a perfect way to waste those dead hours after your heavy lunch and before you can swim again (good Italian moms wait 2-3 hours by the clock or else you risk death).

Il grande Rientro/ Controesodo: The saddest part of all, the end of the summer, the “grande rientro”, the big return (to the city, to work). AKA the Controesodo, when everyone comes back from the beach, or goes back up north. Causing similar bollino nero days as the esodo, but without the happy anticipation of the vacanze. Water cooler talk (or coffee machine talk) for the following week involves simply “e tu, dove sei stato in ferie?”.

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