I shouldn’t have done it – procrastinated so long – has it really been four months since my last post? My plan was to enjoy our American visitors in May and June and to write about it in July and August. I had forgotten that July is the month of the Quintana and there is so much to do and see. Fortunately Larry has still been productive and posting once a month. Some friends have even checked in to be sure I’m okay. Consider this post a small start. I am a bit overwhelmed with all I have to tell you, assuming some of you continue to want to hear every detail (encouragement about now would be good).
I have to admit to a bad case of summer fever, or as I am sure my Mom would call it – laziness, which has also spilled over into my Italian lanaguage studies. When not trying to keep up with our younger friends, all I want to do is sit on a beach, read trashy novels, watch movies and give my brain a break. I’ve come up with all manner of distractions to keep my Italian teacher, Serafino, from teaching me any new words. I’ve managed to divert him into long talks about each other’s interests, served multi-course lunches, requested a lesson on hand gestures, and I even talked him into field trips to the mountains and the beach – to practice Italian, of course. Ah, but he is nothing if not intelligent and saw right through my charade. He’s fed up with my tactics and is now insisting that I refocus – referring to our next lesson as Hell’s Italian (take-off of Hell’s Kitchen) – Oh Merda!
We can’t believe we have already been in Ascoli a year – everything has moved so fast it seems like it was just a couple months ago when we arrived, dazed and confused, in a city we had never been in a region we had never visited. Then we were welcomed, shephereded, encouraged and incorporated into the wonderful life of this beautiful little city. Every once in a while we still stop, look at each other and say – “OMG, we live in Italy!” Last summer we were still newbies in town kept quite busy learning about our new city, preparing and settling into our new home, being entertained frequently by the events held most nights in the piazzas and blogging about it. We had no idea how real Ascolani, our new friends, spent their summers. I’ll sum it up here with the words parties, festivals, mountains and the beach. They adore their warm summer nights (of which there have been precious few this summer-wettest summer in 67 years) and they are such social people that they truly enjoy doing everything with their family and friends. When the days get too warm, they head for the mountains or the beaches, together. (The photo is of water exercises a the seashore. Imagine loud dance music being played and a very fit instructor leading the group.)
Tomorrow is Ferragosto, 15 August, a public holiday and for over 2,000 years celebrated as vacation time in Italy. I have inserted here the Wikipedia definition which describes it’s origins and practices much better than I ever could:
HISTORY: The term Ferragosto is derived from the Latin expression Feriae Augusti (Augustus’ rest), which is a celebration introduced by the emperor Augustus in 18 BC. This was an addition to already extant ancient Roman festivals which fell in the same month, such as the Vinalia rustica or the Consualia, which celebrated the harvest and the end of a long period of intense agricultural labor. The ancient Ferragosto, in addition to obvious self-celebratory political purposes, had the purpose of linking the main August festivities to provide a longer period of rest, called Augustali, which was felt necessary after the hard labour of the previous weeks. The present Italian name of the holiday derives from its original Latin name, Feriae Augusti (“Festivals [Holidays] of the Emperor Augustus”). During these celebrations, horse races were organised across the Empire, and beasts of burden (including oxen, donkeys and mules), were released from their work duties and decorated with flowers. Such ancient traditions are still alive today, virtually unchanged in their form and level of participation during the Palio dell’Assunta which takes place on 16 August in Siena. Indeed the name “Palio” comes from the pallium, a piece of precious fabric which was the usual prize given to winners of the horse races in ancient Rome. During the festival, workers greeted their masters, who in return would give them a tip. The custom became so strongly rooted that in the Renaissance it was made compulsory in the Papal States.
DURING FASCISM: The popular tradition of taking a trip during Ferragosto arose during Fascism. In the second half of the 1920s, during the mid-August period, the regime organised hundreds of popular trips through the Fascist leisure and recreational organisations of various corporations, and via the setting up of the “People’s Trains of Ferragosto”, which were available at discounted prices. The initiative gave the opportunity to less well-off social classes to visit Italian cities or to reach seaside and mountain resorts. The offer was limited to 13, 14 and 15 August, and comprised two options: the “One-Day Trip”, within a radius of 50-100 km, and the “Three-Day Trip” within a radius of about 100–200 km.
FERAGOSTO IN RELIGION: The Catholic Church celebrates this date as a Holy Day of Obligation to commemorate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary— what they believe to be the actual physical elevation of her sinless soul and incorruptible body into Heaven. Before the Roman Catholic Church came into existence, however, this holiday also included honoring of gods—in particular Diana—and the cycle of fertility and ripening.
So religious or secular you can pick a reason and go on vacation! And they do. Our dry cleaners is closed for vacation, our alterations lady is on vacation, our real estate office is closed, our bank branch is closed, our pharmacy is closed (both alternating vacation weeks with other branches), the shipping office is closed, doctors, lawyers and many small retail shops are closed and tomorrow EVERYTHING will be closed. No worries, we have a Ferragosto party to go to!