The Feriae Augusti were introduced by the emperor Augustus in 18 BC. This was an addition to earlier ancient Roman festivals which fell in the same month, such as the Vinalia rustica or the Consualia, which celebrated the harvest and the end of a long period of intense agricultural labor. The Feriae Augusti, in addition to its propaganda function, linked the various August festivals to provide a longer period of rest, called Augustali, which was felt necessary after the hard labour of the previous weeks. During these celebrations, horse races were organised across the Empire, and beasts of burden (including oxen, donkeys and mules), were released from their work duties and decorated with flowers. Such ancient traditions are still alive today, virtually unchanged in their form and level of participation during the Palio dell’Assunta which takes place on 16 August in Siena. Indeed, the name “Palio” comes from the pallium, a piece of precious fabric which was the usual prize given to winners of the horse races in ancient Rome. During the festival, workers greeted their masters, who in return would give them a tip. The modern Italian name of the holiday comes directly from the Latin name.
Nowadays the week of Ferragosto (15th of August) is when Italy stops and hedonism rages. Hard working people go on holiday, everyone is heading for the beach or the mountains, and if the catastrophic combination of stars comes to our attention this week, we can make the tranquilliser on the nightstand because no one available and no office is working (or, if so, very symbolic). Those who, by some miracle, do not burn at the waterfront, and are on vacation or are not yet on holiday, they are required to have a minimum of a large family jumble with a compulsory grilling or picnic. The cities are empty, at least the townspeople leave, the tourists remain, and even in the smallest village there is some parties.
No matter where we go in Italy, we certainly have some great programs: a lot of museums have an extraordinary opening around the country, in Jesolo all night Gigi D’Agostino mixes music, Rome is on the banks of the Tevere, all over the street and streetfood booths are everywhere, with concerts and fireworks. The line is infinite, and even if we do not plan with it, we will definitely find a party to join.
So let’s go, cheers & Buon Ferragosto!! 🙂
P.S.: …where is my Aperol Spritz? 🙂