August is, without a doubt, the most dreaded month of the year. Busy nights in the spring and early summer that end in tired complaining are followed by knowing voices reminding us, "You think this was a hard night? Wait 'til August...". Doctors appointments need to be made in July because, as you know, "In August there is no time for that". Thinking about going shopping in La Spezia for the end of summer designer sales? If you didn't already go, it's too late. In August, there is no time. Take an early night, go home and get to bed before 2 am because...you get the idea.
August started off at the Cantina as if a switch had been flipped. Normally, about 60 percent of our guests are foreign, which does not automatically mean American, as I've explained. The Americans in these past few weeks have actually been less and less, as the price of a plane flight to Italy skyrockets, and other countries - Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Turkey, Czech Republic - have started coming in bigger numbers. Save for an embarrassing group of incredibly drunk American kids last night who tried to steal a bike, argued about the price of a German beer, and then almost threw up on the bar, our guests were almost entirely Italian. When other foreign tourists lament that the Cinque Terre is a post full of tourists, it's easy to forget that the rest of the world doesn't operate on the same vacation-work schedule. Of course you are with other foreigners in April. Yes, certainly the beach is full of English and French speaking voices in June. Italians are saving their vacation for August, and the constant sun and 33 degree C weather that makes moving painful.
August is the month of vacation here, when Italians take time off and businesses shut down to come to the shore an relax, many for a full month. We have friends and long time guests that have been taking their August holiday in Monterosso for their whole lives, and I forgot until last night that this means re-explaining the flood, as many of them haven't been to Monterosso for a year. The nice thing about these guests and friends returning is that now I can speak enough Italian to have a conversation, albeit not a perfect one, and everyone is happily surprised by how much I've learned (though I'm still in the opposite camp). The other side of the coin in August is that the average dinner time moves later by about an hour and a half, as Italians do not eat dinner at 6 pm, and the tables definitely take their time enjoying their meal.
Most places also stay open 7 days a week during this busy month, which makes for a grueling schedule. We're trying to wiggle out of that a bit, and instead stay open in September, which was just as busy, if not busier, last year. August brings crowds, but also fun events, like the annual luau party in Sestri Levante, a Brazilian party here on the streets of Monterosso, and a cocktail contest that is run like a pub crawl throughout town. A day or two off this month wouldn't be all that bad, especially when it's 100 degrees F in the shade, and it's too crowded and hot to even go to the beach and sit on a sun bed. The other bright side? I've learned how to say useful things like, "I'm literally melting". Oh August, I forgot how different you can be.