Ever since I started visiting Italy (and even now that I have officially moved here), I feel like my whole life is a learning process. There are so many things I didn't know before about Italian life, food, language, culture, etc., and most of them are things I never would have thought about before. And, chances are, you haven't either... which is the whole point of this blog!
I decided today that, in addition to the stuff you are probably wondering about already, I am also going to make a whole new series of posts for things you didn't know you needed to know before moving to Italy.
First on our list: Italian business hours.
Italian Business Hours May Vary from Day to Day
Okay, so obviously Italian stores, offices, restaurants, bars, etc. have regular working hours just like the ones in the United States. The difference, though, is that these business hours may change from day to day and store to individual store. Sometimes they are open on Monday from nine to one, other times they are closed on Mondays but open on Tuesdays from three to six.
The best way to avoid showing up at the wrong time is to check a business' hours on Google before going, or to go to the office or store and check for a sign near the door. Most places have their hours listed on a sheet of paper near the entrance or on the door itself so that people know when they can come in.
There Is Almost Always a Gap in the Middle of the Day
The first few times I visited Italy, my husband would go to work during the day and I would stay home and work online (this was back before almost everyone worked online). Being somewhat adventurous (and somewhat bored...) I would often go out after lunch to go try to do some shopping in the city center. But day after day I kept finding that almost every store I went to was closed!
At first I thought I had just gone out on one of Italy's many holidays I didn't memorize, then I thought maybe the stores were just closed on Mondays. Then I thought maybe they were closed for some other reason or had gone out of business.
Then, finally, I just asked my husband and he said, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world: "Well of course they were closed in the afternoon. Most places close at one so everyone can go to lunch."
So, I decided to start going out at two... but the places were still closed! How the heck long is an Italian lunch hour?!, I wondered.
It turns out, most grocery stores, department stores, offices, and other businesses close at 12:00/1:00 in the afternoon and reopen at 3:00 or 3:30. So, long story short, either go shopping before noon or after three if you want to actually go into any stores!
Pharmacy Hours - Another Exception to the "Rule"
Okay, so I finally figured out the store schedules. It seemed odd to me, someone from the land of 24-hour stores like Walmart, that businesses would stay closed for such a large chunk of time every day, but I accepted it. Little did I know that that was just the beginning...
In Italy, there are pharmacies on nearly every street corner, but I quickly discovered that they are not all the same. Some are open certain days of the week or certain times of day, while others are open on completely different days during completely different timeframes. To me, this seemed like a great way to really confuse people... but it turned out to have an interesting reason behind it.
Interestingly, the pharmacy hours are staggered in such a way that you can always find a pharmacy open near you, no matter what the time of day or night. So, if you ever need to get a prescription filled out of the blue or get some first aid supplies at an unexpected hour, there is a pharmacy available to help you. The only trick is finding out which one!
Have you ever had trouble figuring out Italian store hours? Share your story in the comments!