If you are visiting an Italian city on August 15, it is likely you will find yourself in the middle of a ghost town. This day is known as Ferragosto or Assumption Day and typically marks the beginning of August holiday. Most Italians leave the city and head to the beach or countryside to celebrate with friends and family. The days are filled with music, food, parades and relaxation. The party continues into the evening and in some places includes a fireworks display. The majority of professional businesses and shops are closed this day.
Ferragosto dates back to the Roman Empire when Italians honored the gods of agriculture celebrating harvest and the change of seasons. They specifically honored Diana who was known for the cycle of fertility and ripening. During this time the celebration lasted for all of August.
Later, Ferragosto was adopted by the Catholic Church as a Holy Day commemorating the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Virgin Mary into Heaven.
In Italy, the entire month of August is generally taken as holiday for many professionals and shop owners. However, some Italians kick off their lazy summer days with a Ferragosto celebration. Regardless of the length of the holiday, while visiting Italy in August, you will likely find several signs in the shop windows stating, “Closed. Will be back September 1st.”