Ferrogosto is a public holiday in Italy celebrating the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary on August 15 each year.
It is a religious holiday that also celebrates the middle of summer in Italy. Ferragosto is unique because it also marks the beginning of Italy’s famous summer holiday periodwhen most kids are on school holidays and families, business owners and frankly, most Italians, pack their bags and cars and head to the Italian coast.
Here are 3 things you should know about travelling to Italy before, on or after Ferragosto in August.
1. Many shops and restaurants are chiuso (closed)
Ferragosto technically runs from 15 August to 1 September. But while 15th August is a national holiday, the rest of the holiday period is up to anyone’s interpretation. Because families and shop owners all go on holidays at the same time, many shops and restaurants shut down for the entire month of August leaving some parts of Italy virtual ghost towns in summer.
Some establishments close as early as mid-July while others stay open the whole summer. Some close for a week; others for a month.
So be aware that many small (family run) restaurants and shops may (or may not) be closed during this period and ask your hotel to recommend what is open and book ahead. ….and beware of touristy restaurants and shops that will be open but will probably be just that, touristy and overpriced.
And remember, lots of international tourists come to Italy in August and the well trodden tourist tracks and attractions will be mostly open and very crowded. (Uffizi Gallery and Vatican museums will be at their most crowded). So book ahead and don’t try to do too much at this time of year (refer next point).
2. Italian summers are hot
It’s summer in Italy so you can expect the weather to be sunny…and hot. And its always hot in Florence, Rome and the south of Italy in July and August (and often into September) in particular.
Hot, in land-locked Italy, means daily temperatures around 30 + degrees are very normal in August and in the cities there are often no cooling sea breezes to be had so check the hotel you book has air conditioning and consider venturing out to tourist attractions in the cooler parts of the day. Many of Italy’s major museums don’t have air conditioning (including Uffizi Gallery in Florence and most of the Vatican museums) but in summer may be open late. So it worth checking.
Consider booking any day tours before you go (no standing in queues for hours in the blistering sun!) or steer towards those activities inside or underground…like the Rome Catacombs or churches, galleries and museum tours. Or head to the hills or beach and try to catch a breeze…
And don’t forget that when in Rome or other major Italian cities, drink lots of water from one of the many nasoni or water fountains located on just about every street corner. It’s clean and safe and free and comes from the mountains and springs outside the city. If you buy a bottle of water from a cafe, refill it at a fountain whenever you can. It’s good for the environment and your wallet!
3. Do as the Italians do and have a summer holiday!
What is perhaps the busiest travel period for Italy is actually one of the most reasonable accommodation periods price wise – generally from 1 July to 31 August. But you do need to book early or before you go , especially for any beach or coast locations including the Italian islands (Sardinia, Sicily, Capri) during this time as this is where the Italians themselves go on holidays. It’s good to note that here, stores and restaurants will be open.
So be aware that most of Italy is busy in summer but join in the summer festivities and plan to celebrate Ferrogosto and summer in Italy! There are fireworks and film festivals and other great attractions and activities to enjoy during this time across Italyincluding the famous Palio horse race which takes place in Campo del Campo in Siena on 16 August each year and many other wonderful summer things to do.