FERRAGOSTO - What Italy celebrates on 15 August...

The most Italian of all holidays. On 15 August, on Ferragosto, Italy is paralysed. The whole country is off. The motorways are empty, the beaches and mountains are full. But why actually...

The highlight of summer: Ferragosto is (usually) spent together with friends and family - with lots and lots of delicious food. Optionally there is a pranzo di FerragostoA very sumptuous lunch at home (or in a restaurant). Optional barbecue outside or picnic on the beach or in the mountains.

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The traditional dessert on Ferragosto is watermelon...
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Celebration begins with the Romans

Three holidays for Rome: More than 2000 years ago, the first Roman Emperor Augustus introduced the "feriae Augusti". (Latin for holiday of Augustus) a. The people are allowed to celebrate the triumph over Egypt for three days. August had defeated his Roman adversary Marcus Antonius and Cleopatra.

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The inventor of Ferragosto: Emperor Augustus, here a statue in Rome
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These three days in August, later only the 15th, become holidays throughout the Roman Empire. The harvest god Consus and the end of harvest work are also celebrated during this time.

The church takes over

In the course of Christianisation, a religious festival - the Assumption of Mary - was placed on what was actually a Roman holiday. The Assumption of Mary into heaven is celebrated. The Eastern Church introduced the holiday at the beginning of the 5th century, the Catholic Church followed in the 7th century.

In the fascist era under Benito Mussolini, Ferragosto becomes a day of travel for the people, including the working class. From the mid-1920s, the government offers discounted tickets for special trains to the sea or the mountains through fascist organisations.

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Ferragosto today

Around 15 August, most Italians plan their summer holidays these days. The season is at its peak, and so are the prices. Many hotels and campsites are fully booked. Outside the holiday resorts, administrative and economic life virtually comes to a standstill. Ferragosto is like a holiday for the whole country, with many town festivals, celebrations and fireworks.

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The Ferragosto fireworks in Taormina, Sicily
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Especially in the coastal towns, there is a bonfire for Ferragosto and parties on the beach. At midnight, people traditionally go swimming. Another typical custom on Ferragosto is throwing water balloons or spraying water (buckets). "Gavettoni" are especially common in coastal towns. In some regions, people also celebrate in Ferragosto. 

In Italy, it is customary to wish each other a happy holiday, a "buon ferragosto".

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