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8 min read

Working Hours in Italy: A Guide

working hours in italy

In the picturesque landscapes of Italy, where the balance between life and work is as essential as a perfectly aged Parmigiano-Reggiano, understanding the nuances of working hours is key. Italy’s approach to work culture reflects its broader societal values, prioritizing not just productivity but also the quality of life. This unique blend of professional rigor and la dolce vita offers a fascinating case study for anyone intrigued by global work practices. Let’s dive into working hours in Italy!

Navigating the Italian workweek involves more than just clocking in and out. It’s about comprehending a system that intertwines with national holidays, extended lunch breaks, and the infamous August shutdown. For expatriates, entrepreneurs, and business enthusiasts alike, grasping these aspects is crucial for thriving in Italy’s vibrant economy. As we delve into the specifics of working hours in Italy, we uncover the layers that make working in this country a unique experience.

Key Takeaways

  • Italy’s standard workweek is legally set at 40 hours across five days, emphasizing a balance between professional and personal life, with laws ensuring ample rest and fair compensation for overtime.

  • The typical Italian work schedule includes a mid-day break for lunch, reflecting the country’s cultural values of leisure and family time, with a significant emphasis on maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

  • Differences in part-time and full-time employment offer flexibility, allowing individuals to pursue a variety of personal or professional activities outside of standard working hours.

Understanding Working Hours in Italy

Building on Italy’s unique work culture that blends productivity with quality of life, it’s crucial to delve into the specifics of working hours in the nation. This examination offers insights into Italy’s legal framework regarding work hours, typical work schedules, and the differences between part-time and full-time employment. Understanding these aspects is key to navigating the Italian job market effectively.

The Legal Framework

Italy’s labor laws set a standard workweek at 40 hours, distributed across five days, aligning with the country’s emphasis on balancing professional and personal life. The legal framework, governed by the Italian Workers’ Statute of 1970 and subsequent amendments, stipulates the maximum work hours and rest periods to safeguard employees’ rights. Overtime is regulated, allowing for flexibility in work schedules but ensuring that employees do not exceed the legal limit of 48 hours per week, including overtime. Employers must compensate for overtime work, either through additional payment or rest days, promoting a fair work environment.

Typical Work Schedule

Reflecting Italy’s cultural values, the typical work schedule accommodates a blend of productivity and leisure. Employees generally work from 9 AM to 1 PM, then take a 2-3 hour lunch break to enjoy a meal and rest, resuming work from 3 PM or 4 PM until 6 PM or 7 PM. This schedule not only respects the traditional Italian lunch but also aligns with the natural flow of the day, allowing for an enjoyable work-life balance. Additionally, many businesses and government offices close early on Fridays, further adding to the flexibility of work hours in Italy.

Part-Time Vs. Full-Time Hours

The distinction between part-time and full-time work in Italy is clear, offering varied options for employment based on individual needs and preferences. Full-time employees work the standard 40 hours per week, typically under a contract that outlines specific working hours and conditions. Part-time jobs, on the other hand, offer reduced hours, usually half of the full-time equivalent, allowing employees to dedicate time to other pursuits or responsibilities. Employers and employees can negotiate part-time arrangements flexibly, enabling a tailored approach to work that accommodates personal life, studies, or other part-time endeavors. This flexibility is particularly valued in Italy, where work is seen as one part of a well-rounded life.

The Italian Work Culture and Lifestyle

The Italian work culture is distinctive, with a strong emphasis on maintaining a balance between professional commitments and personal life. Italy’s approach to work-life balance, national holidays, and paid time off reflects its societal values that prioritize wellbeing and family. This section delves into the intricacies of how these elements interplay to shape the work culture and lifestyle in Italy.

Work-Life Balance in Italy

Italians view work-life balance as an essential aspect of their lives, integrating leisure and family time seamlessly with their work commitments. The typical Italian workweek aligns with the standard 40 hours, spread over five days, usually from Monday to Friday. However, what sets Italy apart is the emphasis on long lunch breaks, often lasting up to two hours, allowing workers to return home to spend time with family or enjoy a leisurely meal. This practice underscores the importance of downtime and relaxation in the daily routine.

Moreover, many businesses in Italy adopt a more relaxed pace during the summer months, particularly in August, when companies may close or reduce working hours to allow employees time off to recharge. This emphasis on rest and rejuvenation is a testament to the Italian prioritization of health and wellbeing over continuous labor.

National Holidays and Paid Time Off

Italy is generous with its national holidays and paid time off, further demonstrating the country’s commitment to a work-life balance. Italians enjoy a total of 12 public holidays, including national celebrations such as Republic Day on June 2 and Liberation Day on April 25. These holidays offer opportunities for communal celebrations and personal time away from work.

In addition to public holidays, employees in Italy are entitled to a minimum of four weeks of paid vacation annually. This entitlement enables workers to take extended breaks, often spent with family or traveling, which is seen as vital for mental and physical wellbeing. The combination of public holidays and paid vacation days in Italy is among the highest in Europe, highlighting the country’s dedication to ensuring employees have ample time for rest, leisure, and family.

Sector-Specific Working Hours

Building on the understanding of Italy’s commitment to work-life balance, the discussion now turns to how working hours vary across different sectors. This variation reflects the country’s diversified economy, which accommodates a broad range of job functions, lifestyles, and regional practices. Each sector, from industrial to service and public, has its unique set of norms regarding work hours, contributing to Italy’s dynamic work culture.

Industrial Sector

In the Industrial sector, employees typically adhere to a standard 40-hour workweek. Factories and manufacturing plants often operate on a shift system, ensuring continuous production. Workers in the Industry might start their day as early as 6 AM, depending on the shift they’re assigned to. To align with Italy’s cultural emphasis on rest, many industrial operations pause for a midday break, allowing employees to enjoy lunch and a brief respite. Overtime is not uncommon in this sector, particularly during peak production periods, but it’s compensated according to national labor laws, ensuring fair remuneration for extended hours.

Service Sector

The Service sector in Italy showcases a slightly more flexible approach to working hours, particularly in businesses directly serving the public, like retail, hospitality, and restaurants. Employees in this sector often face variable schedules, which can extend into the evenings and weekends, especially in tourist-heavy areas. However, businesses generally maintain the Italian tradition of long lunch breaks, typically from 1 PM to 3 PM, though this can vary by establishment and location. Seasonality significantly impacts working hours in the service industry, with longer hours required during busy tourist seasons, notably summer and around major holidays.

Public Sector

Public sector working hours in Italy are among the most structured, with a clear emphasis on maintaining a balance between professional responsibilities and personal time. Government offices, including local municipalities, judicial bodies, and educational institutions, typically operate from 8 AM to 2 PM, Monday to Friday. This schedule allows public sector employees to dedicate afternoons to personal interests, family, and social activities, embodying Italy’s work-life balance ethos. Additionally, many public sector entities close for lunch, usually for an hour between 12 PM and 1 PM, further adhering to the country’s traditional workday rhythm.

Changes in Working Hours

Trends Over the Years

Over the past decades, Italy has experienced significant transformations in working hours, reflecting broader global trends and societal changes. Historically, the country adhered to a rigid schedule, with a standard 40-hour workweek being the norm across various sectors. However, the landscape began to shift, showing an inclination towards more flexible working patterns. Data from the past twenty years indicate a gradual decrease in average weekly working hours, aligning Italy more closely with other European nations prioritizing work-life balance.

Moreover, sector-specific trends have also emerged, showing a diversification in working hours based on industry demands and worker needs. In the industrial sector, there’s been a subtle shift towards adopting more flexible shift patterns, accommodating production peaks and troughs. The service sector, particularly in tourism-driven areas, has seen a more pronounced flexibility, with extended hours during peak seasons and shorter days in off-peak times. The public sector has maintained a more stable schedule but has incorporated more part-time positions to adapt to budget constraints and employee preferences.

Impact of Remote Work and Flexibility

The advent of remote work has dramatically altered the working hours landscape in Italy, catalyzed by the recent global health crisis. A significant portion of the workforce transitioned to remote work, introducing unprecedented flexibility in working hours. This shift not only allowed employees to tailor their work schedules to personal needs but also highlighted the potential for increased productivity and satisfaction. Surveys conducted among Italian workers reveal a strong preference for maintaining some level of remote work post-crisis, citing improved work-life balance and reduced commuting time as key benefits.

Businesses, in response, have begun to reconsider traditional office hours, with many adopting a hybrid model. This model blends remote and in-office work, allowing employees to enjoy the benefits of both environments. Notably, this shift towards flexibility has not been uniform across all sectors. Industries that rely heavily on physical presence, like manufacturing and retail, have seen less change, while tech and corporate sectors have embraced this new paradigm more fully.

In sum, the changes in working hours in Italy reflect a broader trend towards work flexibility and an emphasis on balancing professional and personal life. As remote work becomes more ingrained in the Italian work culture, it’s likely that flexible hours will continue to evolve, further blurring the lines between traditional work schedules and modern, adaptive practices.

Challenges and Debates

The discourse around working hours in Italy encompasses a range of challenges and debates, reflecting the complexities of modern work-life dynamics. These discussions are crucial for understanding the evolving landscape of the Italian workforce. Below, we delve into two critical areas: overtime and work intensity, and unemployment and underemployment, providing insights into the ongoing debates and challenges faced by workers and employers alike in Italy.

Overtime and Work Intensity

The issue of overtime and work intensity in Italy is a subject of significant debate. Despite the legal framework setting the standard workweek at 40 hours, many employees find themselves working beyond these hours. Factors such as job demands, company culture, and sector-specific pressures contribute to an increase in overtime, often without proportionate compensation. This situation raises concerns about work-life balance and the well-being of employees. Moreover, the intensity of work, characterized by tight deadlines and high expectations, further compounds the challenge, impacting mental and physical health. Industries such as manufacturing, tech, and finance are particularly noted for these practices, prompting calls for stricter enforcement of labor laws and better compensation for overtime work.

Unemployment and Underemployment

Unemployment and underemployment represent significant challenges within the Italian labor market. Despite efforts to revitalize the economy, Italy grapples with a relatively high unemployment rate, especially among the youth and in southern regions. The statistics reveal a mismatch between job seekers’ skills and the demands of the labor market, contributing to underemployment, where individuals work in jobs for which they are overqualified, or in part-time roles when full-time positions are preferred. This situation exacerbates economic disparities and affects individuals’ quality of life. The debates surrounding unemployment and underemployment in Italy focus on the need for policy reforms, education and training programs tailored to the evolving job market, and initiatives to stimulate job creation, particularly in high-unemployment areas. Addressing these challenges is imperative for fostering a robust and inclusive workforce that maximizes potential and supports economic growth.


Italy’s work culture encapsulates a unique blend of tradition and modernity. The shift toward flexible working hours and hybrid models reflects a broader global movement while maintaining the essence of Italian values centered around quality of life. The evolution from a rigid structure to adaptable work schedules showcases Italy’s response to changing times and the importance of work-life balance. However, the ongoing debates and challenges highlight the complexity of implementing changes that benefit the workforce without compromising economic stability. Italy’s journey towards a more inclusive and flexible work environment is a testament to its commitment to addressing worker needs and societal well-being. As the country continues to navigate these changes, it sets a precedent for others to follow in creating a balanced and fulfilling work culture.


The traditional workweek in Italy consists of 40 hours, reflecting the country's balanced approach to work and life.

In Italy, lunch breaks are traditionally long, allowing workers to enjoy a substantial mid-day meal and a rest.

Italy observes an August shutdown where many businesses close for vacations, reflecting the society's value on leisure time.

The adoption of remote work during the recent global health crisis has led to increased flexibility, positively impacting work-life balance in Italy.

Article By
Managing Editor
Milly is an international lawyer and tech entrepreneur who has advised companies on expanding globally for over 5 years. She is an advocate of remote hiring and regularly consults on future of work matters. Milly founded RemotePad to help employers learn more about building and growing international teams.