In Italy il Primo Maggio (May First, aka May day) means many different things depending on whom you’re asking. To a sindacalista (union representative), it is all about celebrating achievements in the fight for workers’ rights. To an imprenditore (entrepreneur, business owner), it’s a day that employees get to take off (and which usually sees the business owner going in to work as usual). And to Italian students it’s the day you and hundreds of thousands of other students travel to Rome by train from all over Italy to catch “il concertone di primo maggio” (the big May First concert). Il concertone is an all-day rock concert/party thrown by the three main labor unions in Piazza San Giovanni in front of the Basilica and the old Lateran palace. (Ahhh… to ask any one of the Popes of old what he thinks of that, huh?) Dozens of Italian and international bands play a handful of songs each for the crowd which each year runs anywhere from 600,000 to 1,000,000 people, captive audience for the couple of short speeches given by the unions.
For everyone else, il primo maggio is a day to enjoy the weather, maybe to head to one of the city parks or out of town for a picnic. And in true Italian style, any holiday is all about stare in compagnia (being together with friends/family) and food… fave e pecorino romano in this case (broad or fava beans and fresh roman sheep’s cheese). The fave are in full season, and so can be eaten raw as they are still quite sweet. And the pecorino too is creamier at the moment thanks to all the lush green spring grass around (although given the quantities of the cheese eaten on this day, you have to wonder whether the poor ewe’s have been thoroughly wrung out).
Add a bottle of wine, and no surprise folks are more than happy to “celebrate” il primo maggio… auguri!