The History of Ferragosto
Celebrated on August 15th, Ferragosto is synonym of summer time for all Italians, not only in Italy but around the world; the time for the country to close and go for vacation, which usually means to the beach!
Ferragosto dates back to the Roman emperor Augusts' time, one of the most loved emperors in Ancient Roman times. In 18 BC, Augustus introduced the "Feriae Augusti" to connect farmers with the people and provide a well deserved longer period of rest after the intense harvest.
When the Catholic church became the power of the region, it tried overshadowing this tradition with a new religious one, the Assumption of Mary; however Ferragosto never lost momentum or interest.
During the "Augustali" or Celebrations of Augustus, horse races, banquets and street fairs were organized across the Roman Empire, which haven't changed much over the centuries. At Siena the "Palio dell'Assunta", taking place on August 16 is still celebrated as it was centuries ago.
"Chiuso per Ferie" signs appear on every business all over Italy during Ferragosto, for a week or more. This is the time of the year hotels and tourist areas see the most activity in the year while the rest of the country sleeps.
The popular tradition of going in "vacanze" during Ferragosto or taking a trip, was introduced with the fascist regime in late 1920's. The "Treni Popolari di Ferragosto" People's Trains of Ferragosto made available at discounted prices, increased tourism across Italy, giving the chance to the less affluent people to visit Italian cities, the coast or the mountain resorts. The offer was however limited to the 13, 14 and 15 of August and only 2 tickets were available, "Gita di un sol giorno", a round trip one day ticket that allows a visit to any region within a 50-100 km radius, and "Gita dei tre giorni", a three day round trip that allows a visit to any region within a 100–200 km radius.
Ferragosto has continued to this day, almost untouched by time; but one thing is for sure, it's not only about vacation, it's a time for union, and as lovers of food, a good Ferragosto always ends with a nice meal at a large table surrounded by family, friends and good wine.
Buon Ferragosto a tutti!