Ferragosto in Italy
It’s August 15, it’s Ferragosto in Italy! And it means it’s the perfect day to find out more about this Traditional Italian Holliday! Celebrated on August 15, Ferragosto in Italy is the height of the vacation season. Many Italians take their summer vacation around this time, with the cities emptying and the beaches filling up. But what does Ferragosto really mean?
What are we celebrating?
On August 15th Roman Catholics celebrate the Assumption of the Virgin Mary into Heaven – the day when Catholics believe Mary ascended to heaven after the end of her presence on earth.
The History of Ferragosto
August 15 was a holiday in Italy long before it took on a religious significance.
The word “Ferragosto” comes from the Latin Feriae Augusti (which means several festivals of the Emperor Augustus) which were introduced back in 18 BC.
So, back in 18 BC, in month of August, there were various festivals to celebrate the time of harvest. At the same time, there were some festivals to celebrate battle victories. The Emperor Augustus connected them all in ONE big festival Ferragosto, thus to provide a longer period of rest after the harvest, a time of intense agricultural labor.
In Roman times, the celebrations included horse races, and nowadays the famous Horse race of Siena Palio dell’Assunta takes place on August 16th and keeps these traditions alive.
During the Fascist Era in Italy, Mussolini used Ferragosto as a populist holiday, making special travel offers to the working classes, thus allowing them to visit different parts of the country. At that time, there was even the “People’s Trains of Ferragosto”, made available at discounted prices. The initiative gave the chance to less affluent people to visit Italian cities or spend time at seaside and mountain resorts. The offer was limited to 13, 14 and 15 of August.
This tradition is still alive in the present era, with many travel discounts promoted for the Ferragosto in Italy during this holiday period.
What to do during Ferragosto?
Ferragosto is a bank holiday which means almost total shutdown even in major towns and cities. Basically everything from post offices to public transport is closed. Furthermore, it’s the start of Italy’s holiday season, meaning you’ll see “chiuso per ferie” sign (closed for vacation) all over the country.
On the other hand, on Ferragosto many museums and cultural places are open. You can take advantage of this time and visit Colosseum, Pantheon of Galleria Borghese if you’re in the capital, or one of many museums outside of Rome.
Many towns have processions carrying statues of the Virgin Mary through the downtown and will have fireworks at night. Millions of Italians take their annual vacations in the two weeks before or after August 15, meaning highways, airports, train stations, and beaches will be completely packed.
Around September 1, when Italians go back to work, businesses go back to regularly scheduled hours and practices.
If you are in Italy during Ferragosto, you have a great choice of local events, and below you will find some highlights. By the way, if you don’t speak Italian, but would like to learn some basics to get more out of your next trip to Italy, check out the Italian classes at MULTILINGUAL Society, located downtown West Palm Beach, different levels, group and private classes.
- Rome’s Gran Ballo di Ferragosto fills Rome’s squares with live dance performances. There’s a different type of dance in each square.
- Diano Marina in Liguria holds a festival of the sea with a huge fireworks display.
- In Tuscany, Montepulciano holds a historical pageant and games.
- Cappelle sul Tavo, near Pescara on the Abruzzo coast, celebrates with the Palio delle Pupe, huge effigies paraded through the streets at night. During the procession, they eventually explode with fireworks.
- Sassari in Sardinia holds the Festa dei Candelieri that dates back to the 16th century. In this exciting festival on Aug. 14 and 15, you’ll see a race with teams of men bearing huge candles.
In addition to the festivities held on August 15, many Ferragosto festivals continue through August 16.
1. Siena, in Tuscany, runs its second Palio race in the town’s main square.
2. Girifalco in Calabria celebrates the Feast Day of Saint Rocco on Aug. 16.
It’s traditional to use the long Ferragosto’s weekend to take a trip, go to seaside, lakes or mountains, especially to escape the heat of the month of August. And those who stay in town will see that it is much quieter than usual. A key moment of the day is the traditional Ferragosto lunch, usually a barbecue or picnic with family and friends. And if you cannot be in Italy right now, stop by at That’s Amore and enjoy Authentic Italian Cuisine right here in Florida. Click here to see That’s Amore FULL Menu
Please leave your comments or share your personal experience during Ferragosto in Italy in COMMENTS below. Grazie!
Buona giornata !!!