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HOW TO ESCAPE FERRAGOSTO, aka the worst Italian holiday

Ferragosto (15th of August) is one of the main Italian holidays and together with the summer heat the perfect reason for nearly everybody to close down business. If you belong to the unfortunate ones who chose to holiday in Italy when 80% of Italians are on holiday too... prepare for the heat, the crowd and don't wonder why everything seems madly expensive. The fact that the Italian economy really sucks right now, doesn't mean that you'll be paying less for your sunbed at the beach - at least not yet...

And god forbid that you may need medical care during your trip - most hospital staff is obviously on holiday too. So remember to bring that homeopathic first aid kit along and make sure you drive extra carefully. Not that there is any danger that you'll be drink-driving through the Tuscan hills - the staff of the best Tuscan wineries is hanging out at the beach too.

In case you are already here, can't cancel your flight or do a u-turn on the highway (yeap Sweden sounds like a good destination to me) - take a deep breath. There is a way through this, thanks to a couple of stubborn Italians who insist on working through national hellday. If you don't want to spend your holiday on an overcrowded beach, there is always the option of choosing a hot and deserted city. But at least in Florence you'll be relieved to find a couple of open museums - a great way to get access to air-con even if you're not into Renaissance art. However your best choice is to spend ferragosto in one of the Tuscan hill towns. That way you get a fresh breeze in the evening and a comparably smaller crowd. 

This year Montalcino offers a good program to help you through ferragosto. A few hard-core organic farmers decided to stick it out on the day, so as to organize an organic farmer's market. Who if not them knows something about working when everybody else is on holiday?

The Organic Market  (Monday 15th and 21st of August) is tiny, but there is enough choice to find out for yourself what Organic in Tuscany tastes  like. And if you want to delve deeper into the matter, follow up with a glass of wine at Montalcino's Enoteca Osticcio. You won't just get a fantastic view onto the Orcia valley but also an exquisite selection of products from organic and environmentally engaged farmers. A couple of hours spent munching and tasting in there will make you forget that you chose the wrong time to come down South.

And no, I won't be hanging out at the organic farmer's market. As the rest of the country, my Tuscan native will be on holiday till the end of August. And why stay in overcrowded Italy if you can make a run for it? We're escaping the crowd and the heat by cleverly spending our holiday in cool and lovely Switzerland. Cool in the sense of temperature. Last year when sitting on a train to Lucerne, we realized that the heating was on - and thank god it was!

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