Have you ever wondered why every single Italian you know goes on holiday from the 15th to the 19th of August? This guide will help you understand everything you need to know about this famous holiday. Embrace the Italian culture and dive into the traditions of Ferragosto!
Ferragosto derives from the term Feriae Augusti, which in Latin means Augustus rest. But why is it called that? This day was created by the emperor Augustus in eighteenth-century Rome BC. The holiday was born to celebrate the end of agricultural work. In August, thanks were given to Conso, God of the earth and fertility; the whole month was synonymous with respite from the fatigue of working in the fields and celebrations. For example, some ferragosto traditions include events such as horse racing and draft animal parades. In addition, the workers made August greetings, and in return, they received a tip from their masters. This festival was significant because it was the only occasion where enslaved people and their enslavers mingled.
However, Ferragosto in Italy is also considered a public holiday because it is a holy day. If this festival was born as a pagan rite, towards the seventh century it changed completely; the Church decided to make it coincide with the day of the Assumption of Mary. By doing so, both holidays fall on August 15th.
Cosa fare a Ferragosto? is one of the most popular questions Italians ask themselves every summer and coincidentally it is the most difficult one to answer. Every year where to go and what to do becomes the most complex dilemma of all time. However, what to do on the Ferragosto week from August 15th to 19th largely depends on your chosen destination. Italy has two popular options to celebrate this holiday with family and friends: a mountain trip or a seaside vacation. A mountain trip lends itself perfectly to an excursion or a picnic in the middle of nature with friends. You can relax in the sun-filled and soft mountain breeze with music and a few cold beverages. In contrast, a beach vacation implies swimming in the sea, perhaps a fish-based meal and a peaceful walk on the sand. In addition, fun water games are often organized, and excellent, fresh gelato is never lacking.
If you chose to embark on a cultural visit instead, spend time wandering here and there to discover the fascinating history of your desired Italian city. Every year the list of August 15th events changes, and the offers and places to go are always vast. Once you have selected your destination, if you love music search online for the list of concerts and festivals in Italy on August 15th. Imagine the amazing feeling you would get from listening to your favourite artist on a moonlit beach or in the majestic square of a charming Italian city.
Considering many crops are harvested in late summer, one thing you can always expect from Ferragosto festivities is incredible Ferragosto food. The food served to celebrate Ferragosto is typically light and in sync with popular Italian Mediterranean diets, which include a variety of cold pasta, fresh fruits and vegetables. Don’t let the Mediterranean diet fool you; Italians enjoy feasting on good food. Let’s explore the most traditional dishes associated with Ferragosto!
Generally speaking, ripe tomatoes stuffed with seasoned rice is a very popular dish; however, each region in Italy has its own particularities and specialities regarding Ferragosto food. For instance:
- The holiday dishes in Tuscany include roast squab and panzanella, “bread salad” made with onions, basil, a light vinaigrette, day-old bread and ripe tomatoes. The cherry on top of this incredible dish is the wonderful gelato pairing opportunities, for example; try our rich and indulgent Pistachio Siciliano Gelato, you are sure to not be disappointed!
- On the other hand, in Puglia, you will have a completely different culinary experience; you will enjoy Galluccio, a grass-fed cockerel stuffed and baked. Interestingly, this was once relished by families who could only afford to eat meat on important occasions and holidays. You can top off this family dish with our incredible bundle of Gelato Desserts, mhmm delizioso!
- Our dear friends from the south of Italy, Sicilians, tend to celebrate Ferragosto with Gelu di Muluna, which is a fresh and cold watermelon pudding that is perfect for the hot Italian summers (be warned that Italy in August is that bad) and is decorated with chocolate chips to mimic the seeds. This traditional dish pairs flawlessly with our exquisite Limone Siciliano Sorbet or Ecuadorian Chocolate Gelato for an even sweeter touch.
By the sea for Ferragosto? Watch out!
Another (surely less pleasant) consideration to factor in during your August Italian expedition is some fun and less fun Italian traditions.
Particularly for Ferragosto, if you’re a beach lover and find yourself in the Italian coasts of Sardegna, Sicily, or even the Tyrrhenian Sea, beware: the locals have some traditions that do not strictly only consist of great, refreshing food. Spoiler: the “refreshing” part still stays true.
If you find yourself by the coast, most Italian bagnanti (beach goers) of a young age gather on Ferragosto, forming a big crowd that marches beach-to-beach, terrorising beachgoers, residents and tourists alike. Their fearsome weapons: buckets full of water, and water guns, filled to the tip and ready to fire “secchiate” of water (translation is bucketfuls) on the unfortunate sunbathers.
It’s quite hard to escape this destiny if you’re near any beach on Ferragosto, but wise beachgoers leave their sunbeds and umbrellas when spotting this horde of teenage troublemakers, so it’s important that you move in time, if an undesired fresh shower is something you can’t see enjoying. This, and extremely crowded restaurants might really be the only dangers of a Ferragosto trip to Italy.