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Marymount - International School Rome

Ferragosto: Italy's summer holiday on 15 August

What are the origins of the Ferragosto summer holiday?

Italy marks the national holiday of Ferragosto each year on 15 August, the feast of the Assumption, the day when Catholics believe the Virgin Mary ascended to heaven, body and soul, at the end of her earthly life.

The origins of Italy's Ferragosto, however, date back to Roman times, with the Feriae Augusti introduced as a period of rest by Emperor Augustus in 18 BC.

In modern-day Italy, Ferragosto normally means an exodus of Italians from cities as well as the closure of public offices and family-run businesses, restaurants, bars and shops, although some larger supermarkets will open for a half day on 15 August.

In the past, Ferragosto meant that much of the country closed up shop completely for several weeks.

However this is now somewhat of a stereotype, particularly for Italians who don't have access to family holiday homes by the beach or in the mountains.

Many cannot afford to take holidays for weeks on end, opting for shorter breaks instead, and many businesses cannot afford to shut down completely for such prolonged periods of time.

In addition August is a bumper month for those working in Italy's tourism and hospitality sectors, both of which are booming once again after the pandemic.

Traditionally many Rome residents escape the sultry Ferragosto heat by leaving the city but those who stay behind can enjoy the peaceful parks, traffic-free roads and the simple joy of finding a parking place with ease.

The historic centre of Rome stays busy with tourists, however, with crowds thronging the city's landmarks.

State-run museums, archaeological sites, galleries and historic villas across Italy will be open for Ferragosto, however the Vatican Museums will be closed.

Rome's municipal museums and archaeological sites will also be open on 15 August, with the city's public transport network operating on a reduced "festivi" timetable.

For those interested in cooking the traditional Ferragosto meal of Pollo alla Romana, here is our recipe.

Photo credit: leonori /

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