Ferragosto: Italy's summer holiday in August

Rome shuts up shop for Ferragosto on 15 August.

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 the modern-day capital Ferragosto normally means an exodus of Romans as well as the closure of public offices and family-run businesses, restaurants, bars and shops, although larger supermarkets tend to open for a half day.

This year however, due to the covid-19 crisis, things may be busier than usual, as many families can't afford holidays, or don't wish to travel, and many restaurants can't afford to close.

Traditionally Rome residents escape the Ferragosto heat by heading to the beach or the mountains, while those left behind enjoy the city's peaceful streets and parks, the traffic-free roads and the simple joy of finding a parking place with ease.

With the exception of the Vatican Museums, many of Rome's museums and archaeological sites will remain open, and the city's public transport network normally operates according to a reduced "festivi" timetable. 

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