Sights, museums, restaurants, shops: When the are open, when they are closed, and when they take a <em>riposo</em> (siesta)
Before I give you a breakdown of the typical orario di apertura (open hours) Italy, we have to talk about the riposo.
You know how you naturally get sleepy in the middle of the afternoon?
Well, Mediterranean (and Latin American) countries have always kept attuned to the biorhythms that American culture tries to ignore, and they’ve found a way to work around the body’s internal clock.
You might know it as the siesta. In Italy, it is called riposo.
During riposo, most museums, churches, shops, businesses—just about everything except restaurants—lower the shutters and lock the doors so that proprietors can either go home (or head to a local trattoria) for a long lunch and perhaps a snooze during the day’s hottest hours
This traditional early afternoon shutdown varies from business to business, but usually lasts about 90 minutes to two hours. It may begin anywhere from noon and 1:30pm and run until anywhere from 2:30 to 4pm.
At first this break can be extremely annoying to the tourist, especially if you’re on a tight sightseeing schedule, but after a while you get used to it. Learn to take the riposo and revel in it. If your time is short, make sure you know which sights (often churches) will be open during riposo and save them to visit at that time.
Sadly, the United States’s economic influence is slowly forcing the rest of the world to live and work according to our hectic, stressful, non-stop schedule. Increasingly, businesses in larger cities are staying open through the middle of the day, and people are taking smaller, quicker lunches and bigger dinners (which any nutritionist will tell you is a trend in the wrong direction). It’s good news for shoppers, but bad news for the general pace and quality of life.
Open hours are posted at most Italian businesses, shops, and sightseeing attractions—sometimes helpfully in both Italian and English.
Very broadly, here are the open hours for most things a tourists will want to do in Italy. Keep in mind that these can vary dramatically. Some sights may only open from 11am to 1pm two days a week; other may be open daily from 7am to 11:30pm (in summer, major sights sometimes post such extended evening hours). Still, this will give you a ballpark.
Remember: churches—crammed with frescoes, oil paintings, mosaics, and sculptures—tend to be major sights in Italy. Also, I'm giving just the serving hours for restaurants; though the kitchen may close at 10pm, the joint will likely stay open until midnight or later.
When I write "6:30am/8am" it means that a place might open anywhere between those two bookend times.
Since the precise hours of a riposo vary so much, rather than muddle the times below with ranges for riposo, I'll just insert the word [riposo] in there to remind you that things are likely to be shut for an hour or two in the middle of the day.
- Museums & monuments: 8/9am [riposo] to 3:30pm (minor sights)/7:30pm (major)
- Churches: 6:30am/8am [riposo] to 5pm/7pm
- Shops: 8am/9am [riposo] 7pm/9pm
- Non-retail businesses: 9am [riposo] 5pm/7pm
- Restaurants (kitchen hours): lunch noonish/2:30pm, dinner 7pm/10:30pm (most Italians start dinner around 8pm–9:30pm)
- Bars: 5:30am/6am [riposo] 7pm/midnight (an Italian bar is not only where you get a drink after dinner but also an aperitivo in the early evening, an espresso before work, and a cappuccino during your morning break).
Keep in mind that Italy uses the 24-hour clock—what we call "military time"—rather than am and pm. So if a posted hours sign says, say "Feriali 10–18, Festivi 11–13," that means "Open Mon–Sat 10am–6pm, Sun and holidays 11am–1pm." Ah, but what do "feriali" and "festivi" mean?
That's one more quirk. Many businesses, museums, railways, and other places that post schedules dealing with days of the week don't use specific days, but rather something more akin to what we would term "weekdays" and "weekends." However, they don't divide the week up quite the way Americans do. Here's how to interpret signs, train schedules, and other places with posted hours:
- If you see giorni feriali, simply feriali, or a symbol of a hammer crossed with a sickle (it's not Communist; it just symbolizes "work"), that means Monday through Saturday.
- If you see giorni festivi, simply festivi, or a tiny cross, that means Sundays and holidays.
Most offices and shops in Italy are closed on these public holidays: January 1 (New Year’s Day), January 6 (Epiphany), Easter Sunday, Easter Monday, April 25 (Liberation Day), May 1 (Labor Day), August 15 (Assumption of the Virgin—much of Italy takes its summer vacation Aug 15–30), November 1 (All Saints’ Day), December 8 (Feast of the Immaculate Conception), December 25 (Christmas Day), and December 26 (Santo Stefano).
Most Italians' Christmas holidays last from December 24 though January 6.
Most of town shuts down on the feast day for its patron saints (though there's also usually an excellent procession and public festival happening). Here are the dates (and saints) for major cities:
- Rome, June 29 (Sts. Peter and Paul)
- Venice, April 25 (St. Mark)
- Florence, Genoa, and Turin, June 24 (St. John the Baptist)
- Milan, December 7 (St. Ambrose)
- Palermo, July 15 (St. Rosalia)
- Naples, September 19 (St. Gennaro)
- Bari, December 6 (St. Nicola—Santa Claus!)
- Bologna, October 4 (St. Petronio)
- Trieste, November 3 (St. Giusto)
- Cagliari, October 30 (St. Saturnino)
Sundays in Italy
On Sundays, most shops are closed, as are many restaurants (though some will open for lunch).
Some museums are closed Sundays, and many others have curtailed hours (usually open mornings only).
Most churches will be closed to tourists in the morning since, though they are often among the biggest tourist sights in town, their primary purpose is as houses of worship. (You're welcome to attend the services, of course; just don't be a tourist about it: sit politely in a pew, don't wander about gawking at frescoes and altarpieces, and for goodness sake don't take photographs.)
Mondays in Italy
Mondays are worse. You're usually fine on churches and shops, but most museums and many restaurants are closed entirely.
(By law, most restaurants are forced to close at least one day a week—though, increasingly, many are finding loopholes to get around this—and the vast majority pick Monday.)
There are some other fiddly rules and habits (like the fact that most grocers in Rome close Thursday afternoons), but nothing that will impact your trip enough to worry about.
What to do about "closed days"
How do you deal with Sundays and Mondays? First, be sure Monday is not the only day (or one of your only two days) in a city or town filled with museums. Second, plan to do about half as much on Sundays as you would on a weekday.
Most importantly, find the sights and restaurants in town that are open on Mondays or on Sunday afternoons and save them for those times when everything else will be closed.
Lunedí - Monday
Martedí - Tuesday
Mercoledí - Wednesday
Giovedí - Thursday
Venerdí - Friday
Sabato - Saturday
Domenica - Sunday
- Chiuso per riposo - Closed for the midday siesta (noonish–3ish). Note: if it says chiuso per giorno di riposo (or any of the variants in the next entry), it means they're closed all day.
- Giorno di chiusura, giorno di riposo, or chiuso per turno - The day of the week a restaurant or other place is closed for business.
- Chiuso per ferie - Closed for vacation.
- Chiuso per restauro - Closed for restoration. This is a state that can last for years.
* Note: On Italian signs, the word "per" is often abbreviated "x"—which makes sense when you know that "per" (which can mean "by" or "for") is the preposition Italians use as shorthand for "multiplied by."TK TK