The end of summertime is still a popular time throughout Italy for festivals, music concerts and fireworks. Agosto is also vacation time for Italians who prefer the seaside. Most shops and businesses close for the celebration of Ferragosto (Assumption Day), which is a national holiday.
In Rome, the Festa della Madonna is a major tradition. This event celebrates a 4th century miraculous summer snowfall. Legend recalls that on Aug. 4, 352 the Madonna appeared in Pope Liberio’s dream telling him to build a church on a site where there will be fresh fallen snow the following day. As predicted, snow covered the ground on August 5 and on this plot in Rome, the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore was built. The church has superb mosaics including the Coronation of the Virgin in the apse by Jacopo Torriti and on the arch and the loggia.
La Quintana – Ascoli Piceno (Marche region) takes place on Sunday, Aug. 7. In 15th century costume, more than 700 participants representing musicians, soldiers, handmaidens, lords, and ladies parade through the medieval streets of the town. A jousting tournament in which horsemen ride and strike a figure representing a Saracen is held prior to the parade.
Sassari (Sardinia) - Festival of the candelabra. The festival of the candle dates back to the 16th century. In this exciting Aug. 14 festival, teams of men, bearing huge wooden columns representing candles, race through the city in honor of Mary’s Assumption to fulfill a vow made by the people in 1652, to bring an end to a plague.
August 16, Palio of Siena – This is the second round of the famous Palio race staged in early July. Ten of Siena’s 17 districts compete in a bareback horse race round Siena’s Piazza del Campo. This traditional race dates back to 1147.
The Duke’s Festival (Aug. 19-21) in Venice showcases poetry and a Middle Ages crafts market along with feasts for the commoners and parades. The Beach on Fire in Venice takes place on Aug. 17 and represents the world’s longest pyrotechnic display.
In the charming town of Ravello (Amalfi coast) there’s a series of concerts, talks and performances staged until August 27. Most of the concerts are outdoors with a backdrop of the sea. And, in Curtatone (Mantua), there is the Exhibition of the Madonnari. These are artists who reproduce religious art works on the pavement, using colored chalk. The event is held in the piazza outside the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie.