Have you ever tried to visit Italy during the month of August or tried to conduct business meetings during that month? If so, you have no doubt run into the term “Ferragosto”. But what is the background of this mysterious term?
What is this event – Secular? Religious? Cultural?
- Yes! All of the above!
- Secular: Historically, Ferragosto was a holiday created in 18 BC by Emperor Augustus to celebrate the end of work in the fields. The timing was the beginning of the month and it lasted several days.
- Religious: Eventually, the Roman Church put a religious twist on the day when they decided to move it to August 15th to coincide with the Catholic holiday, Assumption of Mary. As a result, Ferragosto is also known as il giorno dell’Assunta (the day of the Assumption).
- Cultural: As you can imagine, a holiday that has been around for over 2000 years, becomes ingrained into the culture, regardless of one’s religion. If you’re Italian or living in Italy, observing Ferragosto, in some way, is part of life.
When does it take place?
- When the holiday was first created, it lasted a few days at the beginning of August. Over time, it grew to a month-long celebration with some businesses closing for the entire month.
- More recently, it’s most often celebrated for the last 2 weeks of August, starting with August 15.
Where is it “celebrated”? And by whom?
- Ferragosto is part of Italian culture and is celebrated throughout the entire country in some way or another. Although, some towns/cities participate more obviously than others. If you’re planning to be in Italy during Ferragosto, make sure to find out if/what will be open or closed during that period. Many businesses, restaurants, stores, etc. take the opportunity to close for part or all of the 2 weeks.
How is it celebrated?
- This is vacation time – the traditional way to observe Ferragosto is to go away, at least for a few days, if not for the entire 2-4 weeks.
- Since this holiday is so much a part of Italian life, and because many businesses close during this time, it’s also when you can expect the majority of Italians to be on vacation. The combination of summer tourism plus much of Italy being on vacation, translates to an even higher number of tourists throughout the country during the last 2 weeks of August and especially at those beautiful Italian seaside resort towns.
- TIP: If you’re planning a trip to Italy and trying to decide what time of year to go, my recommendation is to avoid Ferragosto, if at all possible. 😊