August 15 is the day when we celebrate a Catholic solida, the Assumption of Mary into Heaven and that over time has become synonymous with the midsummer festival and out-of-town excursions. Mid-August, therefore, has little to do with barbecues, bonfires and water balloon, which usually are held during this break from the work day.
The term “Ferragosto” apparently derives from feriae Augusti, the rest of Augustus, a public holiday determined by the Roman emperor Octavian Augustus in 18 B.C. which aligned itself partly to Consualia, the ancient ceremonies of the Roman religion dedicated to Conso, the god of the barns and fertility, celebrated during the harvest period and the end of the agricultural work.
The Italian folk tradition that goes from North to South which provides for the trip out of mid-August, however arise during the Fascist period. From the second half of the twenties in the period of mid-August the regime with associations of various corporations organize hundreds of tours with trains “Treni popolari di Ferragosto” at discounted prices. The tours did not provide meals, so was born the tradition connected packed lunch.
And never miss traditions also at the table. The typical dish of this feast is the roast pigeon, a custom that seems to be born in Tuscany in the Carolingian period. In Sicily it is customary to prepare for August the typical gelu of muluna, a dessert made of melon spoon. Finally in the capital people usually consume chicken with peppers, while in Sardinia, the typical sweets of Spanish origin called “orelettes”. Inevitable on August tables is the watermelon, it became the symbol of the festival.