The Italian Almanac

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Italian News - August 24

Economic pressures and changing lifestyles have more Italians staying home in August, once a languid, idle month at the heart of one of Italy's and Europe's most cherished traditions. The traditional month-long August break is threatened by a drop in discretionary income and new efforts by Italian corporations to compete in the global economy.

"The buying power of Italian wages has been falling ever since the introduction of the euro (in 2002), and so Italians are forced to be less ambitious in their travel planning," says Roma Due University economist and author Donatello Scarpatti.

Italian companies "are realizing that they can't close their doors for a month every year and still compete with rivals from North America or Asia, where that would never happen," Scarpatti says. "An Italian company competing against an American, Japanese or British rival can no longer say, 'Call back in September.' "

Tourists find it easier to book themselves into popular Italian resort areas. "For the first time I can remember, I was not booked for all of August before the first of the month," says Flavia Barbieri, who operates seven guesthouses along Italy's majestic Amalfi coast. "In the end, I filled them all, but there are more foreigners than Italians this year, and more people calling at the last minute and actually finding something." Barbieri says many of his Italian customers "are taking shorter vacations, or I don't hear from them at all."