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1st May: Italy celebrates the International Workers’ Day

1st of May: Italy celebrates International Workers’ Day

May in Italy begins with a public holiday based on an important anniversary: the Festa dei Lavoratori. Celebrated in more than eighty countries, in Italy, and in the rest of the world, International Workers’ Day is an important day created in honor and defense of laborers. This festivity was born with the aim of remembering workers and trading unions who fought to guarantee the labor force equal rights and benefits. Historically speaking, the leading promoter of the feast was the city of New York, which organized the first demonstrations in 1882; in Italy, it was recognized as a public holiday in 1891 and, after a period of suppression during the Fascist Ventennio,  it was celebrated again starting from 1945.

International Workers' Day
International Workers’ Day: workers at the beginning of the 20th century (Britt Marie Sohlström)

The importance of Workers’ Rights and their celebration

The greatest achievement of labor unions all over the world was the implementation of workers’ rights and the reduction of working hours. The latter is embodied by the following slogan “Otto ore di lavoro, otto di svago, otto per dormire” (eight hours for working, eight hours for leisure, and eight hours for sleeping). It was, indeed, while protesting for the right to reduce daily working hours that, in 1886, a number of protesters were killed by the Chicago Police. Although the police attack was caused by a bomb fired by an unknown member of the crowd, their reaction was overpowering and caused the death of innocent people. Since then, the First of May is celebrated also in honor of the Chicago Martyrs, whose fight and death represent that of many workers of the time.

International Workers’ Day: labor without rights also meant underage workers, front left (Pierre J./flickr)

What We Italians Do

Events are organized for International Workers’ Day all over Italy. If you are traveling to Italy during this period, you should visit the websites of each region to see if there are special or local initiatives taking place. The most famous national event is organized by CGIL, CISL, and UIL (the Italian labor Unions).
Il Concerto del Primo Maggio, an all-day-long concert that takes place in Piazza San Giovanni in Rome, as well as other main locations in the country, where people coming from every corner of Italy gather to celebrate and enjoy the performances of some of the best artists in the country and from all over the world.

The 2023 edition, like the previous ones, will be unique. “Generazione #1M2023” is the festival’s motto this year. The purpose, as with past editions, is to highlight the best that the canon of Italian music has to offer. Among the most prominent singers at the time who will perform at the concert are Mara Sattei, Levante, Lazza, Ariete, and Tananai. In a nutshell, there’s something for everyone!

Primo Maggio Roma 2022, grande successo di pubblico, in tv e in piazza!
Concerto del 1 Maggio – 2022 edition | Credit

The First of May is not only a day for events and parades, though: many Italians spend this day relaxing or visiting another place.

But there is much more…

This public holiday inaugurates the beginning of May and the weather is usually quite warm, therefore, Italians take it as an opportunity to take some days off and go somewhere, especially if it falls on a long weekend. In truth, for many the First of May is more about taking a short holiday and relaxing with friends and family, rather than remembering the reasons behind it.

The favored destinations for a typical First of May holiday are cultural towns and the countryside. However, some decide to go to see destinations and enjoy an early taste of the summer to come.

If you are scared you will not have the chance to go shopping or buy some souvenirs, don’t worry! Even if this is supposed to be a day when people should not work, it is not true for all types of jobs and shops. Actually, you will find shops regularly open for the whole day, or at least for half a day, in city centers and shopping malls. Restaurants and bars work as in any other ordinary day, as people are more likely to go out and spend the day relaxing outside their houses.

A day for workers, a day for those who want to relax, a day for tourists: no matter which category you fall in, the First of May is certainly a day to be taken off while exploring a dreamy corner of Italy.

Celebrating Workers’Day in Italy: take a break from it all and simply enjoy the Spring (Antonio Cinotti/flickr)
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