Happy Ferragosto!

What better way to wind up the hottest part of summer than with a Ferragosto post, right?  Yet I can hear you asking, “Ferragosto? What in the world is it?” Well, it means August holidays. And it’s the official celebration day (on August 15) of the summer vacation from work.

(So OK, I need to say Happy belated Ferragosto!) A holiday which  started out as one week, but has in modern times evolved into an entire month off work! Sounds great? That’s because it is!

But many businesses and shops (except in touristy areas) close for much of the month. Which can make life a bit trying! Even government offices and even some hospitals run only skeletal crews!

The August holidays 

Ferragosto means August vacation or holidays. It coincides with the Assumption of Mary (a major Roman Catholic feast day). But the month-long August vacation most expresses the true Ferragosto holiday.

What does it matter if you can’t get your ID card during August, or half the shops close? Yes, that happens here in August. Just go find a local feast (most towns have them), and eat, drink, and be merry!” Rome, after all, wasn’t built in a day!

The Augustinian holidays

But in Roman times, Ferragosto meant the Augustinian Holidays. Because the Emperor Augustus introduced it in 18 BC to promote his political reign. Providing, among other things, free food and wine in various locations. 

In all actuality, it was an extension of two existing Roman feasts. The Vinalia, a lot like Italy’s Roman Octobers, which celebrates the wine harvest. And the Consualia, celebrating the Roman god by that name.

Horse races

Ferragosto celebrations also consisted of horse races throughout the kingdom. Along with a day of no work for all beasts of burden, such as donkeys, oxen, and mules. Racing traditions which Italy still holds. Like the famous Palio of Siena, a medieval festival well known for its in-town horse race.

In Fascist times

But today’s way of celebrating with a trip or outing, dates back only to Fascist days. The Fascist regime, in the late 1920s, organized hundreds of Ferragosto trips.

The special People’s Trains, offered citizens special discounted prices for 1-3 day trips. Thus all families, regardless of income could tour Italy. Choosing between art cities, the city, and mountain resorts.

A standing love affair!

Italians obviously have a long-standing love affair with holidays! Or when it comes right down to it, with days off or entertainment of any kind! And the Colosseum is standing proof of that. A sad reminder of man’s fascination with blood, gore, and violence.

But not all Roman entertainment was violent. Many, appalled by the violence, chose to attend the theater or poetry readings instead.

In keeping with this tradition, did you know that all public museums in Italy are free on Ferragosto? Of course, that usually means you’ll have to fight with bigger crowds. Which could be why most Italians stick to taking picnics or head to the beach or mountains.

It really is too bad, though, that no one offers such special low-cost trips anymore, like those of the 1920s. We would sign up right away! As I’m sure would most Italians! And how about you?

Where would you go if they still offered nearly free Ferragosto trips?

Resources: FerragostoThe History Learning Site, TheLocal.it

Images ©Signora Sheila/ Signor Mario.

20 thoughts on “Happy Ferragosto!

    1. We don’t take the whole month off, but a lot of things do (factories, stores, etc.) Even beaurocratic offices and hospitals run skeletal crews! It’s crazy. Yet learning to rest is needed in today’s society!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I’d love to see the northeastern part of our country–I’ve not been up that way. And there are so many beautiful historical places, as Nancy mentioned, and landscapes that are so very different from Florida. But I can’t imagine having shops and things closed like that for so long. Is that even sustainable for them economically?


    1. I’ve not seen much of that area either, Dayle, but would like to. But then, I love travel and would go almost anywhere! I doubt such long closures are good economically. But Italians, with their indwelling slow living, seem more able to see the other side. Some Italian sayings show this quite well. “Il dolce far niente:” It is sweet to do nothing. And “La vita è breve, l’arte è l’arte lunga:” Life is short, art is long. In other words, there’s more to life than work!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Love those sayings! So far from the reality of the states, where doing is valued and rest is frivolous. I’m learning to rest more in the Lord, but it’s an internal and cultural challenge!


        1. Italy is more laid back, for sure. Yet while Italians tend to hold to that in most things, but spiritually even here believers struggle to rest in the Lord. We humans continually think we must do more, even to please God. Rest should be easy, but it takes a lot of work!!

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Ha, that’s a good way to put it. Oxymoronic!! But it’s only because we live in a fallen world. Sin has made everything work. The only thing that seems to come easily and naturally is sinning. 😦

            Liked by 1 person

  2. I can see that Ferragosto certainly includes both pros and cons! One city I’ve always wanted to visit: Philadelphia, PA–to see Independence Hall and the Benjamin Franklin Museum for starters. These days, though, I’d probably need an armed guard escort!


    1. Yep, pros and cons like most things, Nancy. I’ve always thought Philadelphia would be interesting. But I guess my first choices would be Shang Hai China or Quito Ecuador. Don’t ask me why. They’ve just always tugged at me! As you say, those would just be starters though!!


      1. Oh my goodness–Quito, Ecuador?! Maybe I’ve mentioned this before, but I spent four-plus months there between high school and college ( a LONG time ago) as a short-term missionary, working at HCJB as the pre-school and kindergarten teacher for staff children! The Andes mountains were beyond spectacular, the missionaries warm-hearted and caring. It was a faith-forming experience.


        1. Wow, Nancy, one of my dream cities!! And you make it sound as wonderful as I’ve always imagined it! I can well imagine that it was faith-forming experience, and I’m glad you got to go there! If I ever do get to, I’ll let you know if it’s still that nice. You never know!

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Of course the city included many impoverished people and crime–to be expected in a third world country. I don’t want you to plan your trip wearing rose-colored glasses!


          2. No, I realize that of course. But I’m drawn to 3rd world places. So much opportunity to lift people up out of sin and need. And I doubt I’ll be going any time soon anyway!!


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