Today is Ferragosto in Italy, the day when Roman Catholics believe the Virgin Mary is supposed to have ascended to heaven, and a major Italian holiday. Even before the time of Christ, however, Romans honored the gods on August 15 with a celebration they called Feriae Augusti. So while the Catholic church might have co-opted the day for their own religion, they kept something of the ancient tradition in the modern name.
Ferragosto is, next to Christmas, Easter and New Years, probably the most important holiday in Italy. You will read that the entire country shuts down on August 15 to celebrate, but what you might not see is that most of the country is already in shut-down mode. Many Italians take the entire month of August off anyway, so midway through the month they’re probably ready to leave their beach chairs for one day for a big celebration.
So, if you are in Italy for Ferragosto this year (or any year), plan to join in the festivities celebrating the Virgin Mary – it’s the only thing that’s going to be happening in most Italian cities anyway.
Buon Ferragosto, tutti!
For a more historic look at Ferragosto, from ancient Roman times through the present, see this article.