Ferragosto, otherwise known as Assumption Day, is a national holiday across Italy. On August 15th, Christian Italians honour the Assumption of the Virgin Mary in their own way. In Siena, they celebrate with the Palio di Siena. In Rome, with the Grand Ball of Ferragosto.
Across the city centre, a DJ plays a different genre of music in each main square. From classical to Reggaeton, diverse sounds echo around the capital.
The biggest of all August festivals in Italy, Ferragosto also sounds the starting bell for summer vacations. Try not to drive long distances on or around the 15th. Freeway traffic queues are legendary.
Palio di Siena: August 16
August includes the year’s second (and final) running of Tuscany’s most renowned event, the Palio di Siena.
This horse race, held in honour of the Virgin Mary since medieval times, takes place twice a year. Each July 2nd and August 16th, the main square of Siena becomes a racetrack for horses in the colours of 10 of Siena’s 16 neighbourhoods. Jockeys ride bareback around fan-shaped Piazza del Campo on a layer of dirt.
A race only lasts 90 seconds. But if you are staying in one of our villas near Siena, you should make a date to witness one neighbourhood win the Palio. Festivities precede and follow the event, for several days before and after the big day.
Fiera del Cocomero: last week
Castellina in Chianti has become known for its thirst-quenching food festival. Star of the show is the watermelon, the Tuscans’ favourite treat for keeping refreshed in the summer heat.
Founded after WW2 by and for farmers, this event now attracts locals and foreigners, another of the culinary traditions on which Tuscany has been built.
For the Fiera, Castellina’s centre is lined with stalls selling local delicacies — with an abundance of local watermelon, obviously. This August event concludes with live music and dancing in the main square, Piazza Comune.
Beach on Fire: varies
Beach on Fire is an annual firework display in Cavallino Treporti. This small town is 1 hour from Venice on a peninsula which divides Venice’s Lagoon from the Adriatic Sea.
Venice Film Festival: varies
Venice Film Festival is one of the oldest and most prestigious film festivals in the world. Each summer it is held on the Lido, an 11km-long sandbar off Venice.
Organised by La Biennale di Venezia, the festival showcases a diverse selection of international cinema. Check the website: many screenings are open to the public.
Palio dei Terzieri: varies
To mark the cultural traditions of Umbria, Pieve hosts a week-long August festival called the Palio dei Terzieri. Each of the town’s neighbourhoods compete in medieval sports, like the traditional horse-race, jousting and archery.
Throughout the event, Pieve’s historic centre is decorated to imitate 14th-century workshops. Local residents dress in historical costumes and join the reenactment.
Bravio delle Botti: last Sunday
Fine wine, a rare steak and a Renaissance palace: that’s Montepulciano in a phrase. So, it comes as no surprise the town’s big August festival is a medieval competition which involves racing uphill with giant wine barrels.
On the last Sunday of the month, Montepulciano’s 8 contrade (neighbourhoods) face off in the Bravio delle Botti. Two rival contestants push heavy botti (wine barrels) up the centre’s historic Corso (Main St.) to win the the Bravio — a painted cloth depicting Montepulciano’s patron saint.
If you are staying in one of our villas near Montepulciano, put on your best cheer and join spectators to watch one of the most exciting August festivals in Italy.