Roman Holiday

No, not the film with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck, but August in Rome. Romans, as with many Italians, escape the suffocating summer heat of the city and head for the hills, or more commonly, the beach. Ferragosto, the 15th August, a midsummer Roman holiday, originally the Feast of the Assumption, marks the height of this summer exodus.

The Catholic church celebrates this day as the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, but before Catholicism, Ferragosto was celebrated in the Roman Empire to honor Diana (the Goddess of the hunt), and the cycle of fertility and ripening. This is where, purportedly, the present Italian name of Ferragosto comes from, the Latin Feriae Augusti, the festival of the Emperor Augustus, although I'm not completely sold on that one (sorry Wikipedia, you can't win them all).

In the past, almost the entire month of August was taken as a vacation by Italians. However, this appears to be changing, especially in the North, with most Italians only taking a short holiday around Ferragosto, or using it to mark the start of a two week, rather than four week holiday.

But what to do if you stay?

Well, Rome doesn't shut down completely. All the usual monuments and museums are still open and on top of this, there is the great Estate Romana, a collection of both indoor and outdoor activities across the city, from the centre to the suburbs. They host events in the more obvious places, such as museums and nightclubs, to the more obscure, such as nursing homes, hospitals and prisons. There's always something going on most nights, which is good as many theatres, cinemas and nightclubs close between June and September. Some move to outdoors venues, while others relocate to the busy seaside of Ostia, just outside Rome. If you're in Rome over Ferragosto itself, you could head to the Gran Ballo di Ferragosto, which happens across the whole of Rome, with a different dance style in each piazza.The advantage of the August exodus is that Rome is slightly quieter than usual. The metro is emptier and the streets a little less busy. One major problem in August (I find), is where to eat. Most restaurants close down for at least a few weeks and often only the very worst tourist joints remain. Thankfully, the New York Times has a great list of where one can eat in Rome in August. For a good list of what's still open in terms of shops, exhibitions and the like, check out Buzz in Rome. So while many Romans will be away, there's still plenty to do in Rome itself.

And in Lazio...
Many towns and villages in Lazio also celebrate Ferragosto with festivals and sagre. A good list of them can be found (in Italian) on the folclore website. Highlights include a Potato sagra in Grotte di Castro and a gnocchi sagra in San Lorenzo Nuovo, both in the province of Viterbo, and a day filled with theater, dance, art and music (among many other things) in Morlupo, just outside Rome on the via Flaminia (SS3). Of course, if you want to do as the Romans, head out to Ostia, on the Mediterranean coast, where there's not only a truly authentic Italian beach experience, but also a film festival in honor of Italian musical directors.

But wherever you are, take a day off, turn off the TV and relax. It's the middle of summer, ferragosto. It's there to be enjoyed...

Photo credits:
Roman holiday - Wikipedia
Beach - city-weekend breaks
Gnocchi - Travelpod
No copyright infringements intended.


  1. It is buzzing here in our corner of Lazio at the moment, Buon Ferragosto.

  2. That's a nice way to get a break.