How is Ferragosto celebrated in Italy?

The word Ferragosto comes from Latin and means “Augustus’ rest”. In the XVIII century B.C. this emperor began to promote festivities to rest from agricultural activities. This celebration is still in force today, being celebrated on August 15 throughout the country; it is a national holiday.

In general, restaurants and stores are closed in the busiest cities. In addition, the Catholic Church also takes advantage of these days for the celebration of the Assumption of Mary, which also coincides with the high summer season. Therefore, Catholic rituals are celebrated along with profane and popular celebrations.

These are accompanied by walks to mountain, beach, park or forest locations; previously many Italians go days before to the places where they are going to spend their vacations. In this celebration they also have fun with activities such as palios, games, folkloric parties and some visit tourist sites, among other activities.

What were these Ferragosto celebrations like in Italy?

As we saw, these festivities were introduced by Ottaviano Augusto, the emperor at that time, in which all kinds of activities were suspended in the month of August, predominating the joy, the party and the exchanges of gifts. This festivity was also joined to others that were celebrated in the same month, such as the Consualia, in relation to the god Conso, since he was the one who protected agriculture.

The empire organized races of donkeys, mules and horses, which were decorated with beautiful flowers, and this custom remains today both in the towns and cities of Italy. For example, we see it in Siena, where the Palio dell’ Assunta is celebrated on August 16.

As for religious festivals, there were those dedicated to the goddess Diana, which had to do with the lunar phases, motherhood and life in the forest. Participation was total, both for servants and masters, regardless of the social class to which they belonged; for example, workers could greet their bosses and they would give them a tip.

This was maintained for a long time and in the Renaissance period the Pope decreed it as an obligatory activity. Another important aspect of this celebration is the fire and the water; the first was necessary to keep away everything bad and to purify and delay the next season. For this purpose, large bonfires were held on the beaches, with a good bath at midnight, which is still done today.

Over time, Christians also celebrated August 15 with a rigorous ritual: the feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. This was established around the 7th century. Later during fascism, popular trains were instituted at low prices so that these celebrations could be held outdoors with the family. One of the many traditions that are still maintained on these dates.

In addition, there are processions, masses, historical representations and many fireworks. Likewise, on August 10, the celebration of San Lorenzo is added; therefore, it is a month of much celebration, parties, stargazing and much more.

Where is Ferragosto most celebrated in Italy?

If that question is asked to an Italian, he or she will immediately answer that it is on the beach. For example, those who are located on the other side of the Alps or Transalpine enjoy the coasts of the towns, such as the Adriatic Coast and also the Amalfi Coast. Likewise, the coastline of the towns of Apulia and, of course, the coastal villages of Campania.

The beautiful islands of Sicily and Sardinia also have their celebrations. Likewise, in the town of Remini, which belongs to the Emilia-Romagna region and is located in front of the Adriatic Sea, many fireworks shows are held on its beaches, which begin on the 14th at 8:00 p.m. and end on the 15th at midnight.

Other activities of Ferragosto in Italy

  • The Palio of Siena, in the region of Tuscany: it is a horse race, in which the different districts of the beautiful city of Siena participate. It is customary to carry out this activity twice a year; once in July, exactly on the 2nd, as a tribute to the Madonna of Provenzano; that is, it is the Palio Provenzano.

The second day is the Palio dell’Assunta, to pay homage to the Madonna of the Assumption on August 16, but the day before there is a general test of the Palio and the big dinner corresponding to this test, and then already on the 16th there are the songs, speeches and congratulations to the winner.

  • Other celebrations: we must remember that these dates also coincide with the peak of summer, and therefore there are many celebrations and festivals, where gastronomy is also relevant. For example, in the province of Palermo, the so-called Vastedda in Grattei, shrimps are the protagonists of a well-known sweet, based on sugar and flour.

Similarly, in the province of Bologna, in the north of the country, we find the municipality of Castel Rio, where mushrooms are the protagonists of many different recipes.

Other festivities are also found in Rome, with the Gran Ballo di Ferragosto. This is a celebration that takes place before leaving Rome, which consists of installing loudspeakers and amplifiers in every square, street, alley or corner with dance music of different styles, including hip hop, for the enjoyment of the entire population.

In addition to all the religious celebrations, there are also cultural activities. For example, in Rome on August 15 there are concerts and free admission to visit museums and enjoy art.

Among the religious processions are those of the island of Sardinia, called the Discesa dei Candelieri in Sassari, which attracts many visitors and tourists. On the island of Sicily, in Messina, the procession of the Virgin Mary or Vara di Messina is celebrated. In Florence, 3 days of these Ferragosto festivities are celebrated in Viareggio.

If you go to the north of the country, for example, to the cities of Milan or Turin, there are concerts with the orchestra of the Cuneo Choir and they are celebrated at mountain level; with a good attendance of people. All over the country there are celebrations during the month, these are just some of them.

Finally, for those who love trekking, physical activities and direct contact with nature, there are many activities and tours during this time. Among them are in the Aosta Valley, the Via dei Giganti or if you prefer the Via Francigena or Etna.

Posted in Europe, Italy.