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August in Italy: Holidays, Festivals, and Other Events

August - Leo and Gemini share a plaque in Piazza San Pietro

In August, as Italians close shop and head to the beach or mountains, the tourist tide rolls in to cities like Rome, Milan, and Florence. There are still outdoor concerts, typically the continuation of festivals from July, and major sights are still open. But the pace of life in August is much hotter and slower and you may find that that restaurant you always wanted to visit chiuso per ferie — closed for holidays.

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August in Italy: Holidays, Festivals, and Other Events

August 5 – Festa della Madonna della Neve, Rome

On August 5, the papal basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome holds an unusual festival. The “Feast of the Madonna of the Snow” commemorates a miraculous August 5 snowfall in the 4th century, an event which prompted the faithful to build a church where Santa Maria Maggiore now stands. A reenactment of the miraculous snowfall happens at the church each year.

August 15 – Ferragosto/Assumption of Mary

By August 15, everyone in Italy is hot, tired, and ready to go on vacation if they haven’t already. Ferragosto is the old pagan name for the mid-August break that coincides with the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. But all Italians, whether religious or secular, hold this day sacred as no one is expected to be at work or at school, but on holiday with friends or family.

August 16 – Palio Horse Race, Siena

The second of two runnings of Siena’s Palio takes place on 16 August, and the winning contrada of this event gets bragging rights for the rest of the year. Tickets for the Palio (as well as hotels in the area) are very hard to come by if you haven’t planned well in advance.

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