While August has its drawbacks with the heat, the month is a great time to experience authentic life and culture in Italy. Perhaps one of the biggest reasons is that the month of August hosts one of Italy’s biggest holidays, Ferragosto. Celebrated on August 15 and the days surrounding, this holiday is a time for fun and relaxation and fireworks. Here is what you need to know about Ferragosto Italy’s biggest summer shindig.
Background and History of Ferragosto
Ferragosto is a holiday that combines several different historical and religious elements. It goes back to the ancient Roman days, and some aspects of these early celebrations such as horse races are still incorporated into the holiday today. Over the years, the Roman Catholic Church adapted this day into a religious one that celebrates the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. Another aspect of this holiday was incorporated under the Fascist regime when discounted travel packages were offered to allow the Italian working class to travel around different parts of the country. This holiday now marks the extended vacation time that Italians typically take in August (sometimes the entire month!).
What to Expect from Ferragosto
There are a number of things you can expect during this holiday. One significant factor to be aware of is that public transportation options will be limited and many businesses and public services will be closed. Banks, government institutions and many small family owned business may also shut their doors. Make sure you have cash and the gas tank in your rental car is full. It is important to keep this in mind and plan ahead likewise to prevent unnecessary frustrations. However, many museums and attractions will remain open during the holiday, and this can be a great opportunity to explore Italy’s many historical sites.
How to Enjoy the Holiday
This holiday can be enjoyed in many ways, the most important thing as a tourist is to stay flexible and take advantage of spontaneous situations you may stumble upon. Also be prepared for crowds and for things to not always go as planned. Approach the holiday with an attitude that is ready for anything and you will not be disappointed.
Many Italians will use this time to go to the beach and relax, and following suit will surely provide a unique experience. The coast is my favorite place to celebrate and you are guaranteed a fantastic fireworks show. Music and dancing can be found in many places, particularly in Rome where the Gran Ballo di Ferragosto takes places. Another place to enjoy the holiday is Siena, which hosts an annual horse race on August 16. Special church services, fireworks, and parades are a few other elements to enjoy. No matter how you choose to celebrate this holiday, soak in the experience and choose to appreciate this taste of Italian life and culture. ~ Kalina Davis
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