Ferragosto is an important Italian holiday that celebrates harvest and recognizes the contribution of agricultural workers. Its origin dates back to Roman emperor Augustus, who in 13BC held festivals and periods of rest after all the crops were in. Over time, the period of rest was combined with other festivals of political, social and religious nature, including the Catholic celebration of the Assumption Of Mary (Mary’s accension to heaven upon her death) on the same date.
Ferragosto celebrations take place throughout Italy and can vary greatly in nature. Some focus on the religious aspects of the day, others on enjoyment of food, wine and sports. The famous Palio di Siena horse race takes place in downtown Siena the following day (also on July 2nd).
In the late 1920’s, the Italian government encouraged travel and vacations in the days surrounding Ferragosto. It subsidized train and bus travel to make it easier for workers to visit different parts of the country. It’s common to see restaurants and other businesses closed for a few days during this time.
Around the world on August 15th each year, it’s common to hear Buon Ferragosto! as everyone embraces the spirit of the holiday.