Long lunches may be a thing of the past in Italy. Earlier this week, an Italian government official called for a ban on excessive lunch breaks, attributing them to growing Italian waistlines and the poor economy.
Currently, the majority of Italian workers spend at least an hour enjoying a “slap-up” meal that often involves several courses of pasta, meat, vegetables, fruit, and plenty of alcohol. This lifestyle has definitely rubbed one official the wrong way. As reported by Reuters, Cabinet minister Gianfranco Rotondi, who claimed to have given up long lunch breaks 20 years ago, said hour-long lunching encourages shirking and obesity, while also bringing the country virtually to a standstill around mid-day.
As expected, backlash has come from worker unions who said the minister’s comment was an attack on worker rights. Nutritionists and health professionals also claim that Italians already eat light breakfasts that, combined with lighter lunches, could send workers’ blood sugar levels dropping in the afternoon.
Italy is not first country to rethink this long-held Mediterranean tradition. As a way to improve productivity and allow more family time at home, Spain’s government banned the highly favored siesta in 2006, only to adopt a more American-style lunch break. In France, extended lunches have waned in recent years, but mostly due to the economy.
Lunch customers used to order a main course, dessert, coffee and a bottle of wine. Now they’re limiting themselves to a main course, tap water, and giving up the rest. It’s the end of a tradition of lunching out and it looks like figures will stay this low for two to three years.
Although it is too soon to tell if Italy will actually adopt this more Americanized lunching style, it is quite apparent that the once favored European siesta has become an endangered tradition.