Every August, people all over Italy make the most of the beautiful weather, stunning landscape and rich culture that their country has to offer with Ferragosto – a national holiday, when almost everyone in Italy leaves their jobs behind for a day of fun and festivity. Celebrated on 15th August each year, Ferragosto (also known as Assumption Day) is a religious celebration – Italy of course being one of the world’s most Catholic countries – but it also has historic origins dating back to the first Roman emperor, who would organise horse races and huge feasts across the Roman Empire to celebrate the “festivals of Augustus”.
Nowadays though, Ferragosto is as much for relaxation as it is for worship. It is a holiday that marks the height of Italian summer, and it’s a time when the whole country is brought together with a real sense of community and celebration. We’ve put together a guide to the best ways to celebrate Ferragosto like an Italian.
Soak up the atmosphere at a Ferragosto festival
There are always plenty of festivals on the days on and around Ferragosto, and each region of Italy has its own way of celebrating. Perhaps the most famous festival though is Rome’s Gran Ballo di Ferragosto. It’s a city-wide party that sees Rome’s many squares filled with dancing – each square offers a different style of music and dance, and participation is strongly encouraged throughout the city. Elsewhere, Siena celebrates with its famous Palio horse race, Tuscany’s Montepulciano holds a historical pageant and Sassari in Sardinia hosts the Festa dei Candelieri, which includes a race with teams of men bearing huge candles.
Head to the beach
One of the most popular ways of celebrating Ferragosto is to leave the hustle and bustle of the city behind and head to the beach. After all, what could be better than soaking up the Italian sun before enjoying a leisurely swim in the sea? Whether you’re enjoying the picturesque surroundings of the lemon-scented Amalfi coast, unwinding on one of Puglia’s many white sandy beaches or heading to one of Italy’s luxurious summer islands – for example Capri, Sicily, Sardinia or Elba – a day at the beach with family and friends is the perfect way to celebrate the peak of Italian summer.
Enjoy a Ferragosto picnic in the countryside
Italy is well known for its incredible food and beautiful scenery, so it’s no surprise that many Italians decide to combine the two with a Ferragosto picnic in the Italian countryside. It’s common for whole families to grab their charcuterie board, their favourite antipasti dishes and a few drinks (the finest of course being Peroni Nastro Azzurro) and head to one of Italy’s countless picnic spots to relax amongst nature. And with it being Ferragosto, everyone is in a communal spirit – which means that a few small picnics can quickly turn in to a big celebratory feast.
Watch a fantastic firework display
It’s always good to finish festivities with a bang, and Italians close Ferragosto in the most stunning way possible. All across the country, the sky is lit up with spectacular fireworks displays – the highlight of which is surely the display at the Festa del Mare in Liguria’s Diano Marina. The night sky above this seaside town is bathed in light as locals put on a firework display that has to be seen to be believed. And it’s not just the sky that looks amazing – the gulf is also illuminated by masses of lit lamps floating in the sea in front of Diano Marina.