To get you in the mood, here are couple of beach scenes from a previous trip to Senigallia, a seaside town in the Marche on the Adriatic. This is what the seaside looks like here. Nearly all of the Adriatic beaches get the ”blue flag” designation because they are so pristine and clean.
Italy is pretty fanatical about the August vacation month which revolves around Ferragosto, August 15th — a one day holiday that somehow justifies the closing down of Italy for the whole month. I know a number of people who plan trips to Italy to look at houses only to find all the realtor offices closed. We learned early on that one should never plan to get anything done in August in Italy.
When we moved here, we arrived at the end of June. We were just beginning our renovations on our apartment. We rushed to get plans in place and pay a visit to the kitchen manufacturer before the end of July so we could place our order. It actually made no difference because, although we ”placed” our order, the factory still shut down August 1 for the month!
Most Italian families will be going on vacations of two to three weeks because their workplaces — both public and private — close. Even hospitals and clinics close or are on skeleton staffing. The whole country takes a break. It is unimaginable to foreign visitors.
Ferragosto is untouchable here. It centers around August 15, but the whole month is considered a holiday. If Italians don’t somehow celebrate Ferragosto, they are bereft. Even if they are broke, and renting an umbrella is expensive, they go. Italians may be having hard economic times. But as I have said before, Italians have extended families. Over the years properties are passed down and inherited. It seems all Italians either own, or they have the use of, multiple houses. Including beach houses. This makes a getaway affordable. Also, if they are short on cash, nonno and nonna are always happy to help out with funds. Families, after all, are everything here.
The actual day designated Ferragosto, August 15, is a time for big meals on the beach under umbrellas and canopies, with family and friends.
For some history — Ferragosto is an old custom. It goes back to the ancient Romans, to Emperor Augustus Octavian who made it a celebration in the first century. It is named after Augustus – Feriae Augusti, meaning ‘Augustus’ rest’. Of course the reasons for the holiday were different back then when they celebrated harvests and pagan gods of fertility and well-being. They decided to stretch the holiday to before and after the day so August is the month of vacation and celebration. Everyone joined in, no matter their class.
Of course, when Christianity came along, Ferragosto couldn’t be the pagan festival it once was, but like Christmas it was incorporated and became Assumption day.
Starting in a day or two, all the cities will empty out. When tourists come they will see the ubiquitous signs on the doors of bakeries, shops and restaurants…‘chiuso per ferie (closed for holiday). Rome will be empty. It will be populated by non-Italians and the few poor souls who keep the hotels open.
Ferragosto is something that will always be celebrated no matter how! Buon Ferragosto a tutti!
Partially adapted from The Local.