If you decided to stay in Rome for a JCU summer session (or two), or simply wanted to come back early to enjoy the city before starting the Fall semester, you probably feel like you have your summer routine down. Whether you have become a regular at your local gelateria, or you have found your favorite summer study spot, or you have been exploring all that the Eternal City has to offer, you may think August will bring nothing new to your Roman lifestyle… but if you don’t know much about Ferragosto, you might be a little surprised when August 15 comes around!
August is a special time in the Eternal City that pretty much every JCU student has grown to know and love. As you walk through your neighborhood, you might notice an unusual amount of shops, restaurants, and cafés are closed. You may initially think, “They must be on their mid-afternoon siesta.” But then you start to notice that no matter how many times you walk by, or at what time, they are always closed. Chances are, if it’s sometime between August 1 and September 1, they are probably closed for the holidays and off at the beach somewhere along Italy’s beautiful coast.
Ferragosto is an Italian holiday that dates back to 18 BC. Introduced by Emperor Augustus, this ancient holiday was added to other Roman festivals held during the same month celebrating the harvest. These festivals provided an extended period of rest, necessary for citizens after the backbreaking labor of the previous weeks.
During the Fascist regime, it became very popular to take a vacation during the Ferragosto holiday. The regime organized hundreds of trips all over Italy through its Fascist leisure and recreational organizations, which was the first time many families of a lower economic class could afford to travel to the sea, mountains, or different Italian cities.
The day of Ferragosto also has important religious connotations, as it falls on the Catholic Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
As a day with so much historical, cultural, traditional and religious importance, Ferragosto is still important in modern Italy. Families typically take a long vacation (at least two weeks), meaning that many smaller, family-run establishments and businesses simply close down for a while.
Be prepared to see fewer locals around the city during that time period; in fact, it may seem as though the city is full of tourists, as summer is a peak season for travelers. It is also important to remember to be flexible during Ferragosto. Italians take their rest very seriously, so if some of your favorite shops or restaurants are closed throughout the month, just remember that the owners are likely relaxing on a beach somewhere, enjoying the time off from another year of hard work!
Hey, you might as well take it easy during your final month off as well before the Fall semester starts up. Take advantage of Italy’s beautiful coastal towns or mountainous regions, and explore the country that will be your home while you attend John Cabot University. If you decide to stay in Rome, why not commemorate your first Ferragosto with a trip to one of the many beaches just outside the city?
Alexa Vujaklija (Shearer)
Class of 2015
Grew up in the United States, Germany, the Republic of Georgia, Russia, and Bulgaria