My love-hate relationship with Ferragosto.

Ferragosto: the blessing and the bane of the Italian summer, and the subject of this week’s COSI post. Some people adore this Italian summer holiday, while others find it to be incredibly annoying. My sentiments lie somewhere in the middle… here’s why:

“Never mind la Crisi, it’s too hot to work”. 

This concept gets thrown around a lot in the weeks leading up to the ENTIRE month of August. How a country that is supposedly in an economic depression can afford to just take off for the whole month of August, is beyond me. I’d also like to know when in Italian history it became customary to take 2-3 weeks off in the days surrounding August 15th, the day of the Assumption in the Catholic religion.

The origins of this celebration actually pre-date Catholicism and used to be a period of rest after a long season of agricultural work and the summer harvest. Then, during the Fascist regime, it became popular to travel on the 15th; there were cheap train tickets offered to the working class for 2 and 3 day trips around Italy. But when-oh-when did people start taking the liberty of 2-3 weeks off, I wonder. My guess is that it became customary during the economic boom of the 70’s and 80’s, and after that it just stuck.

One would think that, with the Crisi being cited as an excuse for all manner of woes (including not paying professional fees), the precious vacation pilgrimage to the beaches of Italy would also need to be sacrificed in these recent years. But no. Many of our clients who can’t pay their bills miraculously find funds for 2 weeks at the beach. Not that they have much of a choice. Apparently 48% of employers in Italy actually require that you take time off in August. The office closes down, and you couldn’t work even if you wanted to!

In the beginning, I rebelled a bit… you know, before I learned that submitting to the system is a much more pleasant approach to expat life in Italy. We started our business in the midst of the worst of the 2008-2009 economic situation, and so we thought, “let’s be proactive and take advantage of the August break. Instead of piling onto the highways like all these people, let’s use this opportunity to get some work done.”

How young and naive we were.


Our resolve quickly melted away into the heat of the August sun. After we realized that no one would return a phone call or email until September anyway and we were the only fools sitting at our desks sweating from the calories burned while typing and moving the mouse, we agreed to never do that again.

It IS too hot to work. And there’s no one around anyway, so you might as well just use the break.

EVERYONE goes to the beach… but… everyone goes to the beach!

Per quanto riguarda la destinazione, il 44% è diretto al mare, contro un esiguo 10% che preferisce il fresco della montagna. Fra i vacanzieri, il 14% ha pianificato un viaggio all’estero e il 7% si immergerà nelle bellezze architettoniche e culturali di una capitale europea o città italiana. – MetroNews

If you don’t speak Italian, that little quote says that 44% of Italy goes to the beach at Ferragosto. FORTY-FOUR PERCENT. Do you know how many people that is? Like… a crap-load! Do you know how big Italian beaches are? Not that big!! Why on earth anyone would want to fight for a square meter of sand upon which to lie and fry yourself is yet another aspect of Ferragosto that is beyond me.

beach in Rome - MetroNews

I loathe Italian beaches. I really do. With the exception of some deserted ones in the South, they are a teeming mass of sweaty, leathery, skimpily clad vacationers making a bunch of noise for no reason. I really, genuinely, honestly do NOT understand the appeal.

On the plus side, when that 44% heads for the beach, the interior of Italy becomes heavenly. It’s true you have more problems finding businesses that are open, but entire cities are like ghost towns! You can walk through Rome without getting run over and you can explore small town centers as though they are museums.

Ferragosto for us this year means to the Baltic and back!

We decided this year to get the heck outta dodge. My poor marito hasn’t had a vacation since our honeymoon, so we’re packing up the tent and the dog and heading north for 3 weeks. It’s an ambitious plan, but (if all goes well)  we’ll encircle the Baltic Sea and make it back home by the end of August, just in time to start our next big project.

I’ll try to get a few updates from the road, depending on how our internet access situation goes, but if you need a little Italy fix in my absence remember to check out my fellow C.O.S.I. bloggers:


34 thoughts on “My love-hate relationship with Ferragosto.

  1. I am REALLY allergic to ferragosto because in my village its a 5 day festa with a lot of noise into the wee hours! and its impossible to shut it out. Also zooming cars whose driver might or might not have had too much to drink. That’ll said, i love the processions and the sardinian music and dancing that goes with it. When you live in a small village there is a big gathering for…big surprise here…FOOD. Its a time to exchange words with neighbors and friends. So its a mixed blessing for sure. Have a great time and keep us posted on your trip.

    • haha, I like how you describe it as an allergy. That’s very accurate.
      I will try to keep you posted from the road! At the very least, maybe I can schedule something to publish while I am gone so it’s not so quiet here!

  2. Don’t really have many with most of the fiesta days in the village I live in, we are far enough away from the piazzo so we not disturb too much, we just use most of them as an excuse to get together and go eat somewhere, not having to work is a blessing but do feel for the people that have to work, as for the beaches, if I do venture to one it’s not in July or August, I don’t get why they have to make so much noise either, love the married to Italy posts, enjoy your trip

  3. Pingback: Ferragosto | Englishman in Italy

  4. I also hate the sweaty beaches of Italy (that you have to pay to sit on) We normally go to a deserted beach in Sicily, I would tell you were it is but then it wouldn’t be deserted would it?

    Happy Ferragosto

  5. I wish I had a secret Sicillian beach but in the meantime I shall be counting the days till my favourite little coffee & cake bar re-opens…… :o(

  6. Pingback: Ferragosto in Rome

  7. It’s hot here in Texas, too. I think we could shut this state down for 3 months if we could use heat as an excuse 😉
    I would so love a Ferragosto vacation to Colorado or somewhere cool like that. Enjoy your vacation!

    • Nah, in Texas we already get to shut down the state when they threaten ice in the winter… we gotta pick a season to freak out about, I think!

  8. I am *Always* in that position of being obliged to take two weeks off around ferragosto, when of course prices are highest, and therefore I detest it. Unfortunately it’s a kind of vicious circle in the manufacturing industry – we don’t manufacture cos the suppliers are all on holiday, the suppliers are on holiday because we don’t manufacture.
    But this year I’m opting out of the system! Compulsory holidays, OK but I ain’t going anywhere! I don’t need to see all that sweaty, fatty bare flesh on display thank you very much .. quite happy at home.
    Enjoy your vacation!

    • Yep, we hate it too. And we’re self-employed! But you can’t really take off in the middle of September (when I’d rather go on vacation) because you get so few weeks of productive work time that you can’t afford to miss out on it. It’s just like you said – we go on vacation in August now because everyone we work with is on vacation… so we either join in or we don’t take vacation all year! We ARE, however, getting out of here. HEAD NORTH!!! Away from sweaty beaches. Towards blonde Scandinavians. 🙂

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  11. I hear you…the Ferragosto thing has both it’s postives and negatives. But as you said, you can’t change it so might as well go with it! Have FUN on your vacation!!

  12. I too have a love-hate relationship with Ferragosto. On the one hand I think about the crisis and how people I feel irresponsibly spend money on vacation. On the other, I think it’s great that people take time out to just chill. It’s something that’s missing in modern society. We’re always working and rushing. I’ve learned to just embrace it and I like when my town is deserted. At least I don’t have to worry as much about someone running me over. 😉

  13. During the 3 years I lived in Torino, the one time we stayed in the city we noticed that not as many people went away for vacation due to la crisi. However, we found it was quite easy to get around by car and find a parking space. Going to the mountains to escape the hear is more the norm in Torino, I would guess. Buona festa da NYC!

  14. This is an interesting post, I’ve been to Italy in August, but prefer to go in october or in the late spring to have a more cultural experience- lets face it, if i want the beach I’ll go to Florida. They are less crazy save for spring breakers.
    What you really hit home about was that everyone takes 3-4 week vacation-something I think americans can not relate to. First of all i feel guilty taking a week off. My immediate coworkers don’t and they get pto. I don’t get pto but if i don’t take time off i will go crazy. Then i feel guilty that i get on a plane and go somewhere else… The same goes for my husband who gets several weeks pto, his team almost had a heart attack when he said he will be on vacation one week in September, and one week in October-he hasn’t taken a week off since early march. And he worked from the hotel every day… His family never went on vacation whole he was growing up- and i doubt he would take time off if i didn’t make him. We live to work here, that’s for sure.

    • CIndy, in 2014 only 50% of italians took a summer vacation. And the average duration was 5,8 nights. In theory you can have 3-4 weeks in a year, but vacations that take more than 2 weeks are uncommon. There are Italians coming from southern regions that live in a northern city that stay at their old family houses in the south for 3 weeks, but besides this, 3 weeks at the seaside is something really ’80s-related.

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  17. Ciao!
    You have very interesting post and very cute Bloog!:)

    We are language school – SCUOLA TOSCANA, situated in very center of Florencia, in front of Basilica Santa Croce and we have italian courses for foreigners! I invite you to visit our official page and our facebook and you can also follow our blog and find some fresh ideas 😛 ! And we are not closed during the August, so the students can any time come to learn italian language, food, art, etc.
    Here are our pages:……

    Saluti della bella Firenze !:)

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