The summer festival that grips the hearts of all Italians. In my 35 years of experience in Italy, no holiday evokes more sense of tradition, history and family memories than this annual event.
Ferragosto, Feriae Augusti or Festivals of Augustus, began in 18BC by the Roman emperor Augustus to celebrate the days of intense agricultural work towards the end of the hot summer and has continued all of these 2000 years!
WHAT DOES FERRAGOSTO MEAN TO ITALIANS?
The holiday is marked with picnics, barbeque’s, hiking, biking, swimming and all things “outdoors”. In fact, on August 15, the official day of Ferragosto, most cities and villages become literal ghost towns. For an Italian family, the idea of being “stuck” in your home is akin to not being invited to your own wedding! Unthinkable!
This year we will be meeting friends and family at an old farm converted to a festival hall in the hills outside of our village, Ruvo. Arriving there at noon, our Ferragosto will be spent eating way too much, drinking more wine than we should and singing and dancing to music played by a local folk band. The evening, will be topped off around midnight with a “nearly legal” fireworks display.
While Cinzia and I have decided to spend the day in the hills, many of our friends have opted to head to the Adriatic coast and occupy a couple of square yards of sand…a beach head, in military terms.
There, all of the day’s provisions… food and drink has been prepared by industrious “Mammas”. Pasta al Forno, Parmigiana, Riso patate e cozze…all to be washed down with copious 5 liter jugs of vino…(a nice dry Rosato, per favore). Watermelons will be thrown into the cool Adriatic and kept there until the afternoon where they will be sliced and devoured by all.
The day will be closed out at sunset followed by another display of “nearly (but not) legal” fireworks over the water.
The day of Ferragosto, the 15th of August, signifies the apex of the Italian’s desire to live life to the fullest, to not be slaves to their work and careers and rekindle that transcendent spirit of their family history and tradition, if not, for just one day.
Saluti e Auguri di buon Ferragosto from Mazzone Olive Oil!