Ferragosto is Italy’s favourite day in August and here is everything you need to know about it.
What is Ferragosto?
The 15th of August each year is a public holiday in Italy called ferragosto, meaning August holiday.
It is common for Italians all over the country to pack a day bag and head to the beach on the seaside, or into the mountains. I mean, the weather is great so why not leave the city behind and enjoy the great outdoors for the day. It also happens to fall in the middle of the summer holiday period.
Pro tip for travellers: If you are planning to travel to Italy in August, be prepared for many businesses to be closed for lengthy periods of time. (Anything from a couple of days around ferragosto, to the whole month of August.)
Where Does Ferragosto Come From?
The tradition dates all the way back to the year 18 BCE. The Emperor Augustus (the guy that August is named after, and the first emperor of Ancient Rome) introduced a festival on the 1st of August called Feriae Augusti. It allowed the Roman people to enjoy a day of rest after weeks of hard work in the agriculture sector.
It wasn’t until the late Renaissance period when the Catholic Church changed the date of the holiday to the 15th of August to coincide with the feast of the Assumption of Mary.
Mussolini used ferragosto to give lower class citizens an opportunity to visit culturally significant cities as well as enjoy the seaside. He introduced extremely low cost trains called ‘holiday trains’ to take people across the countryside for either a 1-day or 3-day visit around the 15th of August.
Food and lodging were not subsidised as part of Mussolini’s scheme and so it was customary for people to pack sandwiches and food to barbeque. This summer tradition continues to this day.
What Can I Do on Ferragosto in Rome?
With many Romans making a mass exodus from the city in search of the fresh waters to dip in at the seaside or to breath the crisp air in the Apennine mountains, Rome is yours to enjoy at your leisure.
Keep in mind that many businesses – bars, restaurants, shops, and all public offices – are closed for ferragosto. If you’re looking to make dinner reservations be sure to call ahead!
On the other hand museums – with the exception of the Vatican Museums – remain open and operating within their ‘holiday hours’.
So, you can take advantage of the reduced traffic (both foot and car) and go for a walk downtown or by the river.
Or, you can join the masses at the beach and soak up the sun, sea, and sand…after all that is exactly what summer is all about!
If you’re looking for a fun way to fill your ferragosto in Rome, check out our walking tours here!