Every 15th August, on "Ferragosto" (Latin for feast day of Augustus = Midsummernight), the whole of Italy is in a state of exception. Around this date, Italy's cities are completely empty, except for tourists. This day is often the hottest day in Italy and is also considered the turning point of summer. The Catholic Church placed the Assumption of the Virgin Mary on this day, 15 August, about 500 years later.
And where does "Ferragosto" actually come from?
The first Roman Emperor Augustus celebrated his victory over Marcus Antonius and Cleopatra and the conquest of Egypt for three days from 13 to 15 August in 29 BC. To this end, he had decreed that this day was a day off work not only for the free Romans but also for the slaves.
What does this mean for the Italians?
The 15th August is "Ferragosto", so in Italy most people take holidays around this special date. In any case, everyone who can somehow manage, takes time off and escapes from the cities to the countryside, the mountains or the sea. It's not surprising that many seek cooling off in the sea. Especially in big cities like Rome, temperatures can rise to 40°C at the height of summer. The air literally stands still and with it all public life.
And what does this mean for tourism in Italy?
It is one of the most important religious holidays, when literally no one works, except of course in the hotels and restaurants in the excursion areas. August is peak season in Italy and prices for accommodation reach their record high. Many Italian families spend their summer holidays on the beaches in their own country, where it gets particularly lively around the "Ferragosto" holiday. In Germany, school holidays are spread over Easter, Christmas, and the summer. Italian schoolchildren have less holidays during the year, so the summer holidays a really long: from the end of June to the beginning of September, the “ragazzi“ are free from school. Their parents usually take their entire annual holiday in August, because many companies have companies are closed then.
What makes "Ferragosto" so special?
Well... an important tradition is the "Cena di Ferragosto", a big festive meal. Restaurants and hotels serve opulent buffets with regional specialities or offer special menus. Also, watermelons are a must for dessert: "Melons fill you up, quench your thirst and you can wash your face with them," say Neapolitans.
In the cities, many shops are closed, but instead there are cultural events, fireworks and a traditional festive menu.
Cultural visits are also becoming increasingly popular on "Ferragosto". While the authorities close on 15th August, many public museums remain open. Some even offer longer visiting hours or entice visitors with a night at the museum.
What else is important to know?
Early bookers have a clear advantage! Hotels and campsites in Italy are booked up well in advance for July and August. Therefore, it is advisable to book accommodation early for the high season.
We wish you a relaxing Ferragosto!