Italian Holiday: Ferragosto, August 15
Ferragosto is a public holiday celebrated on 15 August in all of Italy. It originates from Feriae Augusti, the festival of emperor Augustus, who made the 1st of August a day of rest after the weeks of hard work of the agricultural sector.
It became a custom for the workers to wish their employers “buon ferragosto” and they would get a bonus. This became law during the Renaissance throughout the papal states. As the festivity was created for political reasons, the Catholic Church decided to move the festivity to the 15th of August which is the Assumption of Mary allowing them to include this in the festivity. This festivity was also used by Mussolini to give the lower classes the possibility to visit cultural cities or go to the seaside for one to three days, from the 14th of August to the 16th, by creating “holiday trains” with extremely low cost tickets, for this holiday period. Food and board was not included, this is why even today Italians associate packed lunches and barbecues with this day.
By metonymy, it is also the summer vacation period around mid-August, which may be a long weekend (ponte di ferragosto) or most of August. Up until around 10 years ago, 90% of companies, shops and industries closed but, with the growing influence from other non-Catholic countries, and the fact that closing an entire country’s industry for a whole month meant an incredible loss of money and backlog of work, most companies now close for around two weeks, forcing all workers to take imposed vacation, similarly for the 25th of December. (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
Ferragosto became a popular holiday time during Fascist rule. Starting in the mid 1920’s, the regime offered discounted prices on trips and transportation.
The offer was limited to 13, 14 and 15 August and included two formulas; a “One day trip”, within a radius of up to about 100 km, or a “Three day tour” with a radius of up to about 200 km.
It was the only time that most Italian families could afford to travel to the sea, the mountains or other cities. The trips did not include food, thus, the associated tradition of packed lunches and picnics.
How Ferragosto is Celebrated in Italy
Ferragosto is celebrated regardless of which day it falls on. Banks, stores and public offices are all closed. In the past, companies would close for the entire month, but this is no longer feasible.
For the most part, Ferragosto is a fun, family and friends’ day celebrated with picnics, barbecues, watermelon and games.
As it is also a religious holiday some families will go to mass in the morning. In some villages a procession or festival of the Virgin Mary may be held.
Ferragosto is also a day for fireworks. Many towns organize public firework displays. With the exception of small sparklers and crackers, fireworks are prohibited in Italy and are not recommended.
To find a firework display search: the name of your town + fuochi articifici .
Where to Picnic in Milan
Popular areas for celebrating Ferragosto to meet and picnic in Milan are:
- Boscoincittà opened in 1974, this 110-hectare urban park includes an apiary & trails, plus a pond & picnic areas. Via Novara, 390, 20153 Milano
- Sempione Park is a large city park in Milan, Italy. Established in 1888, it has an overall area of 38.6 hectares, and it is located in the historic centre of the city. Piazza Sempione, 20154 Milano / or enter the park from Sforza Castle.
- Giardini Pubblici Indro Montanelli, formerly known as Giardini Pubblici and Giardini di Porta Venezia are a major and historic city park in Milan, Italy, located in the Porta Venezia district, north-east of the city center. Via Palestro, 14, 20121 Milano
- Breda – Green urban oasis providing expansive lawns, paved pathways, stone picnic tables & benches. Via Gian Carlo Clerici, 3, 20099 Sesto San Giovanni .
Easy Milano Editorial Team
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Easy Milano is the online publication for the international community of Milan. We offer practical tips, key information and essential insights about living and working in Italy. Easy Milano has been assisting English speaking expats in Milan since 1999.
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