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The Dodici Hustle

March 19, 2021

Of the many frustrations that I have encountered living in Italy, the Dodici Hustle is the worst. The what? The Dodici Hustle refers to the way that Italians drop everything they are doing at noon (and usually a bit before) in order to race home for lunch. Here in Italy we have the intervale when everything shuts down for three hours between noon and three PM.

Dodici refers to twelve in Italian and that’s the magic hour when it all unfolds. I have come to understand this phenomena but I don’t really understand its intensity. Let’s start with the shops and stores. Owners start getting very anxious at about a quarter to noon. They pace their floors, looking at their watches. When the magic hour arrives, the lights go off. Often you are politely escorted to the door and told to come back in the afternoon. I’ve even seen transactions halted in midstream to observe this antiquated custom of the noon closure. We have learned to “git ‘er done” well before twelve to avoid this conflict.

Another truly spectacular sight is to go to a bar for a “bianco” (white wine) as the noon hour approaches. When the church bells sound the hour, all of the men chug down what’s left in their glass, pay in a hurry and scuttle out the door in one great mass like cockroaches. They look furtively at their watches as they fear the “little woman” is waiting for them armed with a wooden spoon. Lunch, after all, must be served at exactly noon in this land. I was once asked, “Is it true that Americans can eat lunch at any hour?” Scherzi!

Next and most importantly is the driving that accompanies this madness. People race home at speeds often twice the posted limit. It seems that endangering one’s life is worth getting home in time for lunch. Accidents are common. One such accident took the life of one of my cousins a few years ago. People are simply frantic. All of this is made even the more horrible by the fact that we live in the mountains where all roads are super curvy nightmares to start with. Add in the bicycles and motorcycles whose drivers believe it is safer to travel at noon and you have an obstacle course that is simply crazy.

When we shop, we must descend into the valley about 4 or 5 miles. The return trip is dangerous when it is made anywhere within a half an hour of noon. People pass me in the tunnel, they pass me on blind curves and they even pass me where it is clearly posted not to pass. The result is like riding a rocket bareback without a saddle. When I finally pull into our driveway I notice that I have left indentations in the steering wheel from my frantic grip. The trip itself hardly seems worth it. We shrug it off knowing that we’ll be doing it again soon, hopefully with a Saint Christopher medal in hand.

All of this is not funny in the least. It is a dangerous threat to human life that is practiced daily here. The lack of common sense is completely unintelligible. After 20 years of living in Italy, I have finally found some small hope for improvement. A very few markets and stores have started to adopt continuous hours, setting aside tradition for money. If the rest of this country would follow suit, things would improve. They might even find that they do more business when their doors are open.

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From → Humor, Italy, Travel

  1. Reblogged this on Janet's Thread 2 and commented:
    Adapt, fit in, whatever – if you like living in Italy carry on

    Liked by 1 person

  2. laborsettadelledonne permalink

    I guess this is true for smaller towns. In Milan this habit is definitely changing. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. We live near the Italian border and sometimes I have the feeling that the Italians love to take risky manoeuvres when driving!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. ernestgardog permalink

    Thanks Allen,
    The wife and I have been to Italy 3 or 4 times and we spend 1 week in Venice: While we were there, we wonder why eateries, such as places to have lunch would close and not reopened until approximately 3 PM.
    Now, I understand!
    After reading your Dodici Hustle report!
    Thanks, Ernest & Barbara


    Liked by 1 person

  5. “Is it true that Americans can eat lunch at any hour?” LOL!! Heck yes! I eat when I’m hungry. Jeez, these people do sound a bit crazed. Some traditions are certainly not worth dying for.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I have never understood why small businesses don’t rotate their staff through the lunch period and remain open. It boggles the mind. Fun post!

    Liked by 2 people

    Thank you, Chris

    Liked by 2 people

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