The nationally observed holiday is widely considered a day of rest — a perfect time to take a day trip or explore the city without having to deal with crowds.
Traveling and going to new places is one of the great joys of life — but that doesn’t mean every trip you take is sure to be a winner. Wouldn’t it be nice if when we got to a foreign destination, we’d know we would have a good time? Would the town be buzzing with street life, good cheer, and plenty of food and drink? Well, while any excuse to travel to Europe is a good one, taking a trip to celebrate a local holiday or festival is a great one. You’ll be able to eat, drink, explore the city, and party with the locals. One such holiday that’s sure to be a good (if a bit mellow) time is the Italian holiday Ferragosto.
Ferragosto is an Italian public holiday that’s celebrated on August 15th throughout the country. It originates from something called “Feriae Augusti” — AKA the festival of the Roman emperor Augustus — who decreed that the first day of August was to be a day of eating and rest to commemorate the season and reward the long days of painstaking work in the fields. Now, you’re probably thinking, August 1st. Well, that’s where the Catholic Church comes in: The powers that be decided to move the date of the festival to August 15th, which is the Assumption of Mary, giving the day a holy connotation. In fact, many cities in Italy have processions for the Blessed Mother, which you’ll definitely want to check out.
Now, since Ferragosto is a bank holiday, lots of restaurants and shops will be closed. However, while downtowns probably won’t be jumpin’ on August 15th, unlike many other public holidays, many museums and cultural sites remain open on Ferragosto. It’s a perfect day to take that day trip to the Italian countryside or beach that you’ve been dreaming about since a large number of locals will also be headed to the seashore. Plus, provided you’re not just in town for the 15th, there are plenty of fun and exciting things to see and explore. That’s why we’re breaking down a slew of exciting things to do in Rome, Florence, and Milan — all that’s left to do is book your tickets!
There are endless things to do in the Eternal City, and during Ferragosto, you’ll find many Romans congregating in piazzas (i.e. public squares) having a blast during the Gran Ballo di Ferragosto, where loads of professional dancers put on an unforgettable show. (Plus, it’s free to watch!) Once you’ve checked out the party, why not explore the rest of the city with a Rome in a Day Tour, complete with privileged express entrance to the Colosseum, skip-the-line entrance to the Vatican Museums, as well as stops at the Pantheon and the Trevi Fountain — all led by an expert guide who’ll provide lots of historical context and fun facts about the town. Already seen the sites? Then perhaps the Crypts, Bones & Catacombs: An Underground Tour of Rome is more your speed. You’ll embark on a journey through the subterranean world of Christian Rome in a fascinating, awe-inspiring (and often bizarre) guided tour. On the trip, you’ll learn the history behind Rome’s “City of the Dead,” visit the Capuchin Crypt — nicknamed “The Bone Chapel” — traverse the city’s labyrinth of catacombs to hear stories of the people buried there long ago. You’ll also pop by the incredible Roman Aqueducts and discover one of the greatest achievements of the ancient world.
There’s no shortage of excitement and good times in Florence — for Ferragosto, though, consider embracing the holiday like a local and hitting the beach with your travel companions for a big lunch. (Just be prepared for a seemingly endless barrage of men in Speedos!) After you’ve knocked all the sand off, explore the city with the Florence In A Day tour and learn why the city was the capital of the Renaissance. You’ll stop at Michelangelo’s “David” in the Accademia Gallery, The Uffizi Gallery, the Duomo, Ponte Vecchio, and more breathtaking sites. Then, have an amaro and muster up an appetite, since there’s no better way to take in the city than with some delicious Italian fare. The Dine around Florence tour is an unbeatable evening full of local, authentic Florentine food and wine. You’ll visit neighborhood spots to try their specialties and wash them down with a glass of wine, all the while supporting family-run small businesses. Your local guide will help you learn the unwritten rules of eating Florentine style, teach you what makes Tuscan bread special, and (finally) take you into a hidden medieval wine cellar at one of the most beloved wine bars in Florence, home to more than 15,000 bottles!
You’ve heard of fashion, but there’s so much more to love and learn about Milan. For Ferragosto, you’ll find many Milanese folks picnicking in the various parks around the city, so grab yourself some grub (and a bottle of delicious Italian wine, of course!) and enjoy some dining al fresco. Then, take in the rest of the city with the Best of Milan tour, where you’ll receive guaranteed skip-the-line tickets to The Last Supper, insights from an expert guide, and a fully guided tour of the city and a visit to the stunning Milan Duomo to top it all off. During the guided walking tour, you’ll also take in sights including La Scala Theater and the Vittorio Emanuele II Gallery. Don’t forget to soak up all of Milan’s rich history, since your guide will teach you about the storied past of the city and the famous families who ruled there. Plus, they’ll give you a snapshot as to how life and culture have evolved in what’s widely considered today to be Italy’s most modern and prosperous city.