We came across this difference in European and North American lifestyles when we were on vacation in Spain two years ago. We were in Nerja, on Costa del Sol, in the middle of summer. The days were so hot that the restaurants stayed closed until about 8 pm. So even though our daughter was only three-and-a-half years old at the time, we were forced to abandon our precious daily routine and have dinners at 9 pm or so – a time when she would typically be in bed for at least an hour.
The same thing is happening now in Milan. As the temperatures climb well above 30 degrees (C), people around us adjust by shifting their activities into the night hours. Last weekend, we went to explore the Navigli district. It is a very neat part of Milan, the main feature of which are canals (navigli) built between 1179 and 1209 to transport marble that was used for building the Duomo. Even Leonardo da Vinci contributed to Milano’s canals by designing a system of dams. There are
junk antique markets and some junk unique art for sale along the Naviglio Grande. We also visited some real art galleries, where the owners and the artists were incredibly nice, eclectic and chatty. They spoiled our daughter with little souvenirs, let us pet their dogs and spoke to us in Bulgarian, which they learned in school, thinking that it was Russian.
The restaurants open for ‘aperitivi’ around 6:30 pm. It’s a happy hour – type arrangement, where for the price of a single alcoholic drink (approx. 8 Euros) the customers get the drink and unlimited access to a buffet. The actual dinners start quite bit later. This schedule is very logical and has a lot of built-in common sense. The days are so long now that it would be difficult to go to bed at our ‘normal’ hours anyway. What we are missing is a siesta in the afternoon that we really enjoyed on our vacation in Spain. Our five-year-old is still in school, but she still needs her 10 – 11 hours of sleep every day day, any cultural nuances aside. Basically, we like the European late-night lifestyle, but we are ready for a vacation with a lot of afternoon nap time.