Surviving August in Florence

by Rebecca Bricker on August 25, 2013

During the month of August, Florence turns into a ghost town as residents flee the summer inferno of Dante-land and head to the seaside or the mountains.

August 15 is a holiday called Ferragosto that comes from the Latin phrase Feriae Augusti = a festival introduced by Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus in 18 B.C. to celebrate the end of the harvest and to give field workers and beasts of burden a much needed rest.

Italians take this August holiday seriously – so much so that they start winding down in mid-July. My favorite movie theater here, the Odeon, closed its doors on July 27 – for almost five weeks! Forget summer movies. The Florentine newspaper put out its last issue for the summer in early July.  The pool I swim at closed in mid-July and won’t re-open until early September. The pool!!!!

Many of my friends here have been part of the mass exodus. I sort of felt left behind. But how bad could it be, I asked myself. I’m in FLORENCE! How fun is that?! You’ll note my August calendar was totally blank. >>>

August temps soared above 100 in Florence this summer. My air-conditioning bill will probably equal the cost of a beach vacation. I was doing fine, with daily runs to the neighborhood gelateria. The owner there gives me generous portions. 😉

But panic set in when I ventured out one afternoon, a few days before Ferragosto, only to discover that the gelateria staff had gone on holiday for 10 days. I jumped on a bus in search of gelato and came home with a big styrofoam tub, packed with Straciatella (chocolate chip), After Eight (mint-chocolate) and Bacio  (chocolate with hazelnuts) – from Gelateria Carraia, which has stayed open all through August (grazie mille!). I don’t know how you could survive August in Florence without gelato.

Some of the  shops in my neighborhood closed for two or three weeks in August. I gave thanks every day to Ali, the Pakistani owner of an alimentari (grocery store) near my apartment. He didn’t close his doors a single day in August – not even on Ferragosto. He later told me he had many customers that day – “so many people thanked me for being open,” he said. Grazie mille, Ali!

I ventured out on August evenings…

               I enjoyed museum exhibits…













And strolls along the Arno…





With those few friends still in town, I saw amazing views of Florence from hotel rooftop terraces that were part of a summer promotion called Terrazza con vista: a roof with a view. It was a wonderful way to see Florence from new heights and interesting angles, while enjoying an aperitivo at sunset.






I lingered at my favorite place to write, Giubbe Rosse, where I filled a few journals this summer. I was cooled by fruit drinks and the stir of a breeze from the swirling carousel. >>>

I found a health club with a pool that was open most of August – and some days I had the pool to myself.

I will never forget this August in Florence for another reason: I finished writing a new book! A novel this time. I worked every day – for 30 days straight – bringing the story and its characters to life. What a joy it was, truly, to have this time, in a beautiful city that has been such an inspiration to me in recent years.

The manuscript sits on my dining table  – a few of the pages smudged with chocolate gelato. 😉

I share with you an August night’s view from my terrace – the tower you see just below those clouds is part of a villa where Galileo once stayed. How could a writer not be inspired by this place? Even in August.



This was the BEST summer vacation I’ve had in a very long time. :)



Thom August 25, 2013 at 8:19 am

NEW BOOK! Can’t wait to read it.
We have had an incredibly mild summer (for Chicago). Beat whatever heat there is kayaking or riding the motorcycle.
Again, I enjoyed this episode. It reminded me of trying to get around Spain in August. It seemed like the whole country took a vacation.


Rebecca Bricker August 25, 2013 at 1:47 pm

It’s an eerie feeling when everyone’s gone and all the shops are closed. It’s like you’ve been left behind in an evacuation. Hmmm – LEFT BEHIND (the title of my next book! 😉 )

Susan In Italy August 25, 2013 at 9:09 am

I’m baaaack! Let me know when you mix up the next batch of margaritas. Can’t wait to read the book!!

Rebecca Bricker August 25, 2013 at 2:22 pm

Welcome back! I’ll be revving up the blender soon – will let you know!

Gaya August 25, 2013 at 11:15 am

Great stuff becky… you definitely have some British stiff upper lip in you and would have done well to have gone out to the Empire in times of Cholera and Black Death and written novels while serpents snaked down the bougainvillea to your secretaire in the garden … I know how daunting the heat and exodus is and having weathered it… respect !! Can’t wait to read the new book Congrats girl !!

Rebecca Bricker August 25, 2013 at 1:50 pm

Thanks, G. Cholera, Black Death and snakes in the garden – oh my! Just my suburb. Will you bring me tea? Iced, pls. 😉

Patrick Bones August 25, 2013 at 11:17 am

So good to hear about your on-going adventure once again. Looking forward to reading your novel.
You are so resilient. Enjoyed your photos and your sharing your story with us. Take care. Pat

Rebecca Bricker August 25, 2013 at 1:53 pm

Thanks, Pat! The novel was fun to write. My “characters” were great company. :)

Sarah McKee August 25, 2013 at 11:55 am

Becky, this is just splendid!

Re your carousel – do the Italians really call it a Tio Frivolo?

When I visited my brother Richard years ago in Geneva, when he was posted there, we and his daughters wandered on foot around the Old Town. In a central location was a smallish and antique-looking carousel. Richard called it a Tio Frivolo, Silly Uncle.

It was obviously a vital and beloved civic amenity. A view with which I wholeheartedly agree.

Stunning August evening view from your balcony!

And congratulations on finishing your novel. Terrific accomplishment!

Love, Sally

Rebecca Bricker August 25, 2013 at 2:02 pm

Grazie, Sally. I know carousel as LA GIOSTRA. The carousel at Piazza della Repubblica is lovely and old-fashioned. It may be the same one you remember. There’s a sketch of it in the Tavanti tales, opposite the first page of Chapter 1. And you can see it in the photo slider on the Home page here.

I went out on my terrace the night I finished my book and sent up thank yous to my angels on high – your mom among them! :)

muddygloves August 25, 2013 at 12:25 pm



Rebecca Bricker August 25, 2013 at 2:06 pm

A big hug back to you, Carol! Yes, it’s the same carousel from the Tavanti tales. There’s something about that piazza – it’s also where my favorite cafe Giubbe Rosse is located – that has a hold on me!

Denise August 25, 2013 at 3:45 pm

Just beautiful, maybe if things closed for a holiday around here, we would accomplish more! But really, the pool?

‘Can’t wait to read the novel!

Rebecca Bricker August 26, 2013 at 12:43 am

Can you imagine your neighborhood Starbucks or Trader Joe’s closing for 2 weeks?! Italy may be in an economic crisis, but they’re not stressing about it in August. La Dolce Vita rules!

Peg Ross August 25, 2013 at 10:46 pm

Glad you’ve survived August in Florence, Becky! Reminds me of being in Tokyo over New Year’s–nothing was open for about five days (but weeks on end–oh my!). Can’t wait to hear more about the novel!

Rebecca Bricker August 26, 2013 at 12:45 am

This will make you laugh – the expat church where I do volunteer work closes for all of August. No Sunday services, nothing. God rests not only on the 7th day, but the entire 8th month!

jackie September 2, 2013 at 4:03 pm

I had guests going to Florence last week. Truthfully, I thought they were nuts, but hey-Florence is perfect anytime for the first time!
I am overjoyed at your news about the next book! Brava, Bella. You are am inspiration, my Dear. Let us all know when you have the cover art. Waiting with baited breath!
Ciao for now.

Rebecca Bricker September 3, 2013 at 3:08 am

Grazie, Jackie. I’ll keep you posted about the book. It was a fun one to write! Lots of Italian locations that I know you’ll enjoy – and some interesting Italian characters! 😉

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