Italy wide, everyone today celebrates Ferragosto. This ancient festival — “ feriae Augustae” in Latin — was decreed a day of holiday throughout the Roman Empire to honor the gods, and the cycle of fertility and ripening. It coincides with the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.
As happens so often in Italy, the pagan and the sacred coincide.
For many Italians, this day is spent in the family village.
Romans mostly return to the Abruzzo, where festivals, invariably involving good food and music, mark the day.
Others retreat to the sea — or to the mountains.
Not everyone leaves home : a few urban folk like cities at this time of year, and intentionally stay put. Balconies and terraces — besides piazzas — are often their evening retreat.
National television is this month running a superb retrospective of the golden era of Italian cinema, and there is much to enjoy when the sun goes down.
One of our favorite of all Italian recent movies, “Pranzo a Ferragosto” (“Mid August Lunch” in English, being released for sale on DVD in October) deals with greatest charm with one Ferragosto day for a Roman man and three elderly ladies. Netflix offers it too — you will see it reviewed on our Insider’s Movie List. Director Gianni Di Gregorio, who plays the main role, is our neighbor in Rome and his film conjures beautifully the spirit of the capital during these special mid-August days.
August also means sales — the end of the summer “Saldi”, which have lasted for four to eight weeks. Super discounts are applied at mid-August. (Ask us for the January and summer time Saldi dates. Serious shoppers for high-end and more costly artisanal goods will find that their air fare is more than paid for by following our “Saldi” advice.)
This particular bathing suit..
.. is advertised as “slimming the tummy and lengthening the figure”.
The swimming season goes on well into October in Italy so an elegant suit like this one, at a hearty 40% discount, is a worthwhile purchase.
In Siena today everyone is preparing for the Palio. This emotionally charged horse-race fills the Piazza del Campo to overflowing. The pageantry of the pre-race parade is spectacular, while the historic Palio itself is a nail-biting event that takes only two minutes once the nervous thoroughbreds, ridden bareback by equally high-strung jockeys, shoot out from the starting gate. Though the actual race last for around 120 seconds, the spirit of the Palio absorbs the Sienese for 365 days of the year. Who will win tomorrow’s event ?
And of course Ferragosto is the time for ice cream. Our next blog is devoted to this subject — specifically what makes real Italian artisinal ice cream, and more importantly, where to find it while you travel.
We spoke today to our dear friend on the Amalfi coast, Giocondo..
who gave us his Ferragosto family menu. We are in our US office this month, and all day long have dreamed of such a magnificent feast.
Prosciutto e salame fatto in casa con fichi raccolti stamattina, direttamente dalla pianta (homecured ham and salami with figs picked this morning from his own trees)
Spaghetti e totani con pomodorini del piennolo (spaghetti with tiny local tomatoes and squid)
Pomodori farciti con riso e gratinati al forno (tomatoes stuffed with rice and prepared au gratin in the oven)
Peperoni farciti e gratinati al forno (stuffed red peppers prepared au gratin in the oven)
Pesche nel vino (local peaches in white wine)
We leave you with this.
Meritate feriae Augustae to all of our friends.