Enjoying the Ferragosto in Tuscany
If you are planning to visit Tuscany in August, you cannot come without knowing what Ferragosto is, and how Italians use to spend this summer celebration. Ferragosto is a traditionalItalian public holiday celebrated every 15 August. Originally Ferragosto was a non-religious holiday and was celebrated the 1 August. Due to the Catholic Church, it was postponed to the 15 August coinciding with the major Catholic feast of the Assumption of Mary.
Ferragosto in the history
The origin of the Ferragosto dates back to the Roman Empire. During the month of August, there were already ancient feasts, as Vinalia Rustica or Consualia, to celebrate the end of a period of hard farming works and the beginning of the harvest. Moreover, the emperor Augustus, on 18 BC established a new feast day, called in Latin Feriae Augusti (rest of Augustus). The meanings of this feast were the politic propaganda and giving a longer period of rest to the farm hands.
Workers used to thank their employers, receiving a generous tip. During the celebrations, all across the Empire, there were horse races. Draft animals, oxen, donkeys, and mules, were not used for work but primped with flowers. An example of the traditional horse races that still survive is the Palio in Siena that takes place every 16 August.
The traditional daily excursion that Italians use to do for Ferragosto was born during the period of Fascism. The regime used to organize hundred of excursions with the trains, called “Treni Popolari di Ferragosto” (with strong discounted rates). For some families of the working class, this was the opportunity to reach and see for the first time in their life the sea, the mountains or the main historical cities of Italy.
What Italians do for Ferragosto
Ferragosto, falling in the middle of August and of the summer, means holiday for the majority of the Italians, because almost all the main companies close.
We use to reach the seaside resorts to get the suntan, or the mountains to breathe a refreshing air, far away from the biggest cities.
Ferragosto is also a day to spend with family or friends, enjoying their company, drinking and eating delicious local food.
Almost all the towns and villages organize local festivals, food feasts, beach parties, banquets, and fireworks. Being the Catholic feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, some seaside resorts also organize a procession of the Blessed Mary by the sea.
The biggest and most known museums as Uffizi or Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence are open to allow tourists to enjoy the beauty of the “Bel paese”. For a complete list of open museums at Ferragosto, click on the page of the “Ministero dei beni e delle attività culturali e del turismo“.
A traditional funny custom at the beach, especially when I was young, was the water balloons fight. If you did not want to get wet you couldn’t come at the beach early afternoon. Moreover, teenagers and college students used to have a naked bath at midnight, as a prank.
Special traditional events in Tuscany for Ferragosto
The rowing race of Monte Argentario
In the blue water in front of the fisherman village of Porto Santo Stefano, in the Mount Argentario Peninsula, the Palio Marinaro dell’Argentario, a famous rowing race, takes place.
The village of Sarteano, in the province of Siena, hosts, just before the sunshine, the “Giostra del Saracino”. This event, dated back to the 16th century, consists of an ability tournament between the knights representing the five district of the village. Before the game, a procession of people in costume parades along the streets.
Angela Merkel wagon in Viareggio Carnival
The Big Neptune wagon in Viareggio Carnival
The seaside resort of Viareggio in the last couple of years organized a special summer edition of its beautiful and colored Carnival. Along the main road of the town, you can admire the parade of big papier-mâché wagons, dancing and laughing with your friends and children. This year, 2017, unfortunately, this event won’t take place.
What to eat in Tuscany for Ferragosto
I guess you thought immediately to the fish-fry, but the traditional dish of Ferragosto is the roasted pigeon. This custom was born in Tuscany at the time of Carolingian dynasty, and if in the past it was common across the whole country, today it still survives only in some areas of the region.
Pitigliano in the south of Tuscany
Another Tuscan typical dish of Ferragosto, originating from the village of Pitigliano in Maremma, is the Biscotto di mezz’agosto – literally “Half August cookie”– a donut with anise flavor, that farmers usually had during the harvest.
Other typical food that we use to have at Ferragosto are the bruschetta, fish-fry, barbecue with scampi, ribs and sausages, Florentine t-bone steak, pizza, or grilled vegetables.
The typical Bruschetta
Florentine T-bone steak
Which are your special plans for Ferragosto? Tell us leaving a comment below!