What is the Italian Holiday Ferragosto?

Buon Ferragosto! A popular greeting heard amongst Italians towards the end of summer. Ferragosto, technically August 15, is the official start to the Italian exodus out of the city to the clean, cool air of the mountains or to the sunny, playful costal beaches. It is a scared time, a time to spend with family and friends; to forget about work and obligations. It is a one day national holiday. Some must return to work after, but most Italians will take the following 2 weeks of summer off. Many businesses are closed during this time; however the government requires a certain number of facilities to be open in a geographical area such as pharmacies, hotels, restaurants, coffee bars and groceries stores.

The exact translation of “Ferragosto” is Feast (Fest) of Agustus and comes from holidays started by emperor Augustus in 18 BCE. In religious circles it celebrates the Assumption of Mary, the belief that God took the body of Jesus’ mother Mary into heaven at her death.

The popular tradition of taking a trip during Ferragosto was introduced under the Fascist regime in the second half of the 1920’s. The regime’s recreational organizations began organizing hundreds of trips setting up the “People’s Trains of Ferragosto” which  provided discounted prices to less affluent people and gave them opportunity to travel to other parts of Italy and to spend time at mountain and beach side resorts.

The tradition has continued to this day and Ferragosto has become a celebration of summer !