I giorni della settimana

By Claudia Quesito

The term settimana (week) comes from the Latin septimus, which designates a seven-day timeframe. The days of the week were in turn named after the Sun and the planets that were visible from Earth, as in ancient times, astrologists thought that celestial bodies took turns controlling the first hour of each day.

I giorni della settimana

The specific names were first assigned by the Babylonians and then confirmed by the Ancient Romans. The first five days of the week are basically unchanged since then, given of course the transition from Latin to current day Italian, and so we have: lunedì (as you probably know already, the week in Italy starts with Monday), which is the day of the Moon (Luna); martedì, day of Mars (Marte); mercoledì, when it’s Mercury’s shift (Mercurio); giovedì, day of Jupiter (Giove); and venerdì, when it’s Venus’s (Venere) turn to get to work.

The weekend days

The weekend days have a less linear story: sabato, indeed, was originally named after Saturn (Saturno), which is true even with the English Saturday. With time, however, the meaning shifted, acquiring a religious nuance. It is now designated as the “day of the rest”—from the Hebrew shabbat. A similar path was followed by domenica: At first it was Solis dies (day of the Sun, as it is still now in English), then was renamed Dominica—day of the Lord—upon Constantine’s conversion to Christianism.

Although things have changed in the past decades, Sunday is still the day off for most people (“open 24/7” is not a typical feature, even in big cities). Thus, even 192 years after Giacomo Leopardi wrote the poem with the same name, the concept of il sabato del Villaggio—Saturday (night) in the village—still carries on. The sabato del villaggio poem suggests the exciting expectations of the day before Sunday: the festive, supposedly happy day that is often followed by a tinge of disappointment. Leopardi would probably disagree (he is often associated to his cosmic pessimism), but we can safely say: No fear! The next Domenica—or sabato, if you are more the “anticipation is the sweetest part”—is only six days away.

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