Summer shutdowns: why do France and Italy all but shut down in August?

summer shutdowns

It might seem counterproductive to shut up shop when all the tourists come to town, but it’s a tradition that is deep-rooted in this part of the Mediterranean. Monaco Life explains the phenomena of “summer shutdowns”. 

Known colloquially as the “summer shutdowns”, many businesses – large and small – in Southern Europe shutter their doors for the entire month of August. This tradition has long perplexed holidaymakers from other parts of the world, who wonder why, in the midst of such a huge month for tourists, they would close up shop, missing out on potential big financial gains.  

The short answer is habit, but the reality is a bit more involved and has to do with several factors that have evolved and changed with each passing generation. 


This may surprise many, but one of the primary reasons people in France and Italy shut their doors in August is the heat. Whilst many flock to these countries specifically for the warmth, by the time August rolls around, the heat, coupled with higher humidity, has taken a toll on locals.  


There was a time when factories closed in August, putting many people on the same holiday timetable. As the years passed, and the economies of France and Italy became more diversified, this was no longer a forced vacation, but it did become a habitual one.  

The idea that summer is for relaxation and play, and not work, has been deeply ingrained in the collective psyche, and this unshakable belief has led to most people thinking it inconceivable to not take the month off.  

The idea that all French go away in August isn’t exactly the case, though.

In fact, there are two distinct camps, namely the juilletistes who leave for July, and the aoûtiens who opt for August. For example, if someone grew up going away in July, then as adults, they tend to stick to that routine. A quirk, indeed, but one not without its charms.  


Another reason for the closures is that the French and Italians like a good holiday just like everyone else. It’s rather silly of outsiders to think that just because they want to visit these wonderful places in summer that locals don’t want to get away with their families during this period too.  

Tourists can take comfort in knowing that even though a fair few shops, restaurants and facilities are closed, the big tourist attractions, like museums and churches, tend to remain open, so even if it’s trickier to find a baguette, a trip up the Eiffel Tower can still be had, no problem! 


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Photo source: Loic Barré, Unsplash