Italy still has the tradition of closing things in the middle of the day. Probably not in Rome, Florence, Naples, etc., but in the smaller towns the tradition is still strong. In Lecce things closed down somewhere between 12 and 1 and stayed closed until 4 or 4:30. It is hard to get anything done in the middle of the day except having a leisurely lunch. The restaurants are not closed.
Even the churches close down. We were talking to some English people who went to a nearby town for the day (Otranto) and found that the churches closed between 12 and 4. “Who ever heard of churches closing for lunch?” they said. Who indeed?
In one of the “Under the Tuscan Sun” books she talks about how the siesta kind of gives you two days every day. You have a morning at work, then come home and have a big meal and a nice nap, then get up and do a few things and then go to work again from 4 to 8.
I suppose this is hard for people who live far from work and can’t go home. It is more a tradition for an older time when you lived close to work. We took the early train from Sorrento to Naples when we traveled to Lecce and there were lots of people on the train at 7 am, probably working in Naples and living somewhere along the Bay of Naples. The train takes 70 minutes from Sorrento to Naples so it would not be possible to go home for lunch.