In Italy, this is the great summer festival. There is not a single household in which August 15th is not celebrated with good food and good wine.
From ancient Roman tradition to the Catholic celebration
The word Ferragosto comes from the ancient Feriae Augusti, a holiday that was celebrated in ancient Rome. The holiday was in honor of Emperor Augustus (who also gave his name to the month). The Catholic Church later established the feast of the Assumption of Mary, or the moment when Mary was received into heaven.
What do Italians do on Ferragosto?
Ferragosto Day is traditionally devoted to out-of-town trips, barbecues (we call them "grigliata"), and picnic. Is very common to spend the day off by the pool, sea, or lake. Also popular are mountain destinations since the first part of August is the hottest season of the year in Italy.
What do Italians eat on Ferragosto?
From North to South, tradition is usually respected on Italian tables. The most beloved dish is definitely the Roman chicken with peppers, but also chicken with baked potatoes. Ferragosto Day often features bruschetta: from simple bruschetta with tomato and extra virgin olive oil, to more refined bruschetta with pesto. On the "light" side of the menu, on the other hand, there is the classic delicious prosciutto and melon appetizer, but also seafood salad and Caprese salad. The most popular fruit is always watermelon. Easy to carry and eat even during a picnic. Of course, last but not least, it's not Ferragosto Day without lots and lots of good wine!
"Le teglie," an Italian tradidion
One beloved Ferragosto tradition, especially when eating out, is the preparation of the famous "teglie." Usually, these are pans containing food that can be easily transported and can feed large companies. For example, "parmigiana," the delicious eggplant timbale is prepared. Another famous pan is lasagna or baked pasta (not exactly light, but always appreciated).
Many Italian regions have unique traditions related to this holiday. For example, in Stresa, in the Piedmont region of Italy, small cookies called "Margheritine" are prepared at Ferragosto because they were invented on the occasion of Queen Margherita's first communion. In Tuscany, people bake "Biscotti di Mezz'Agosto," an ancient local recipe. In Campania we have the famous frosted taralli. In Sicily people eat "Gelo di Melone," a fresh, summery treat similar to a watermelon sorbet.
How to celebrate Ferragosto in the US?
Okay, we know it, in the United States Ferragosto is a work day. However, if you have the afternoon off, you could celebrate the quintessential Italian summer holiday with a little party. Choose a park, your backyard or your terrace (if you have one).