Italians on Italians
Beyond Toscano

Ferragosto: when Italy shuts up shop

Summer is hot in Italy. For many, too hot. So hot in fact, that it’s not uncommon for Italians to switch the email Out of Office on and head to the coast for most of August. This can leave foreign tourists bemused as to why so many cities feel like ghost towns in peak season.

The coastal migration traditionally kicks off around August 15th at Ferragusto – the Christian Feast of the Assumption, when the ‘chiuso per ferie’ (closed for holidays) signs start appearing in the windows of shops and restaurants. 
There’s a long history of taking holiday around this time, with emperor Octavian Augustus starting a festival to celebrate the end of harvest, giving citizens a well-earned rest. Working animals were included too, and decorated with flowers as a reward for their labor.

Today, the celebrations take on many forms, all in the spirit of relaxation and togetherness. Perhaps the most popular is la scampagnata (the picnic), when families spend some quality time together – in some coastal areas, you may struggle to find an empty space to spread out your picnic rug. Sadly, the relaxation grinds to a halt as September approaches, with everyone trying to return home at the same time, causing traffic chaos.