Ferragosto in Tuscany. If you are visiting Tuscany in August you may be curious to know more about the summer holiday of the Ferragosto. Have you ever heard about it? Do you know how Italians use to spend this summer celebration? Let’s start by saying that the Ferragosto is a traditional Italian public holiday taking place every 15 August.

What is Italy’s Summer Holiday of Ferragosto?

Originally Ferragosto was a non-religious holiday and was celebrated on the 1 August. Due to the will of the Catholic Church, the celebration was postponed on August 15 in coincidence with the major Catholic feast of the Assumption of Mary.

beach Viareggio Versilia tuscany

Ferragosto in the history

The origin of the Ferragosto dates back to the Roman Empire. During the month of August, the people already used to organize ancient feasts to celebrate the end of a period of hard farming work and the beginning of the harvest, as Vinalia Rustica or Consualia.

Moreover, the emperor Augustus established a new feast day, called Feriae Augusti (the rest of Augustus) in Latin in 18 BC. This holiday had two reasons, political and social. It was both political propaganda and an opportunity to give the laborers a long period of rest.

Workers used to thank their employers with generous tips. Moreover, horse races also took place during celebrations all across the Empire. An example of a traditional horse race that still survives is the Palio in Siena which takes place every 16 August. While in contrast, draught animals, oxen, donkeys, and mules were not used for work but were adorned with flowers.

palio di siena horse race tuscany

Ferragosto during the Fascist Era

The tradition of taking daily excursions for Ferragosto was introduced during the period of Fascism.

The regime used to organize hundreds of excursions for very cheap rates with trains called Treni Popolari di Ferragosto. For some families of the working class, this was a great opportunity to take. They could reach and see for the first time in their life the seaside, the mountains or the main historical cities of Italy.

What Italians do for Ferragosto

Falling in the middle of August when most of the main companies close, Ferragosto means Holiday for the majority of Italians.

Ferragosto is also a day to spend with family or friends, enjoying their company, drinking, and eating delicious local food.

Enjoy the day at the beach

Most people use to reach the seaside resorts to rest in the sun and get the suntan. Others reach the mountains to refresh themselves and breathe a refreshing air, far away from the biggest cities.

On the beach, a traditional funny custom at the beach was the water balloons fight. Today it is not so common anymore, but when I was young it was very popular. If you did not want to get wet you couldn’t come to the beach in the early afternoon. Moreover, teenagers and college students used to have a naked bath at midnight, as a prank.

Celebrating the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Almost everywhere there are 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.

Art, Culture, and Museums

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 official webpage of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

Traditional events in Tuscany for Ferragosto

In the blue water in front of the fisherman village of Porto Santo Stefano, in the Mount Argentario Peninsula, a famous rowing race called Palio Marinaro dell’Argentario takes place.

palio-argentario ferragosto

Ferragosto in Tuscany: the rowing race of Monte Argentario

Instead, the village of Sarteano in the province of Siena hosts the Giostra del Saracino. This event dated back to the 16th century and consists of an ability tournament. Knights, representing the five districts of the village, fight to be the best in town. Before the game, a procession of people in costume parades along the streets.

What to eat for Ferragosto in Tuscany

I guess you think immediately of the fish fry, but the traditional dish of Ferragosto is, unexpectedly, the roasted pigeon. This custom was born in Tuscany at the time of the 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.

Another Tuscan typical dish of Ferragosto, originating from the village of Pitigliano in Maremma, is the Biscotto di mezz’agosto. Literally Half August cookie, is a donut with an anise flavor that farmers usually had during the harvest.

Pitigliano villages in Tuscany

Other traditional foods that we use to have at Ferragosto are bruschetta, fish-fry, barbecue with scampi, ribs and sausages, Florentine t-bone steak, pizza, or grilled vegetables.

What about you? Will you spend Ferragosto in Italy? Tell us by leaving a comment below!

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2 thoughts on “How to Celebrate the Holiday of Ferragosto in Tuscany

  1. Grey World Nomads says:

    I love such typical festivals as ferragosto. At the moment we join festivals in Austria. What a difference to the festivals in the south of Europe!

    • Edoardo says:

      Yes every people has its own culture and its history, and this characterizes the demonstrations and events. Diversity is a value that I really appreciate.

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