How do Italian middle- and highschoolers spend their summers? They surely enjoy a very long break—the longest in Europe. Italian schools are closed for around thirteen weeks, from the beginning or middle of June through mid-September. At some point during this long break, most students go on vacation. August in particular is the vacation month of choice for Italians. Besides resting, going on vacation, and reading, there are plenty of things students can do to make the most of their summer break and to welcome the arrival of September. Let’s see a few examples.
The Erasmus+ program is most commonly known for allowing college students to study abroad. The program is also credited with the birth of the so-called generazione Erasmus, that is, young people who are used to networking internationally and who have a certain open mindset. The program is, however, available to highschoolers too. They can spend anywhere from a few weeks to a few months—including the summer months—abroad, studying or working, and having all those precious and unforgettable experiences that living far from home allows.
Considering the above-mentioned long break, summer schools are a very popular option among Italian middle- and highschoolers. Whether half- or full-day; sports, nature-, music-, or arts-focused, there are plenty of options to pick from, especially in bigger cities. You can also choose to spend a whole week far from home whale-watching, sailing, labeling sea turtles, trekking in the Dolomites, kayaking, or perfecting a musical instrument. These camps are normally smartphone-free, so they can also be a way to detox from technology.
From international, highly structured programs to more local activities, many Italian students use part of their summer free time to volunteer. Activities can vary from helping local churches with their summer programs to assisting younger kids with their homework, or going abroad to participate in various curricula.
Finally, although the idea of a summer job or summer internship is not as institutionalized as it is in the United States, some students do devote all or part of their summer vacation to interning or working. Internships are ideally “dream jobs,” or at least jobs students might foresee for their future. As a way to raise some money, however, many young people fanno la stagione, just working whatever job they are able to find.
There is, however, a special class of high-schoolers that is worth mentioning: the ones who have to take their esame di maturità—the high school final exam. Their summer will be shorter—between written and oral tests, the maturità ends at some point in mid-July—but it will also be more special than those of other students. Generally considered the last “real” summer of your life (summer here meaning absence of duties), l’estate della maturità is the one you will always remember with a mix of horror—the fear of the final oral exams is real!— and sweet memories. The exam is usually followed by an epic vacation, taken not so much for its destination as for its symbolic meaning. So, in bocca al lupo (break a leg) to the ones who are taking the exam, and buona estate to everyone!
By Claudia Quesito