Part of Italian cultural DNA is to vacate the cities for the month of August and head for the beaches or mountains, with this tradition dating all the way back to 18 B.C.! This was the year Emperor Augustus, after whom the month of August is named (it was his favorite time of year), formally instituted the August ‘vaca’ by connecting various annual festivities celebrating the harvest to create an extended period of rest from the year’s labors. He filled this period with rituals, races, games and FUN. Known then as feriae augusti and today as Ferragosta, it later took on a Christian meaning as well coinciding with the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin into Heaven celebrated on August 15th. Today, August 15th is a national holiday and much like our 4th of July or Memorial Day culminates in dazzling displays of fireworks filling the night skies.
Good or bad for tourists? … that depends on where you’re headed. There’s a bit more breathing room in major cities, though shops and restaurants may by be closed, with concerts and other activities making up for it. If you’re headed to the beaches, you’ll be sharing the sun, the sea and the sand . . . but even then, there are over 5,000 miles of spectacular coastline to discover and savor.
Photos featured are from Sardinia, Elba, Capri, Lipari, Sicily, Procida, Ischia, and the Amalfi Coast.
Ask yourself this: have you ever met anyone who really doesn’t like, if not love, Italian food? I bet you haven’t. So, just why is it that Italian cuisine has such universal appeal? Part of it is its endless diversity, with every region, town or even famiglia having its own distinctive style, resulting in a whole world of food within the “Boot.”
While Italian cuisine offers a dazzling kaleidoscope of variations, a couple of key qualities tie it all together: an emphasis on fresh, local, seasonal ingredients, and simply allowing quality ingredients to speak for themselves without fuss or frilly excess . . . something Americans have come to embrace more and more over the years. Italy is blessed with bountiful fruits and vegetables so it’s not surprising that Italians roll their eyes at the notion of “farm to table” being a new idea; it has always been at the heart of Italy’s culinary traditions. Plus, one shouldn’t underestimate that special “X” factor, best characterized as the alchemical addition of passione and amore.
“For one ravishing moment Italy appeared.” – E.M.Forster, Room With a View
No place on the planet can rival Italy’s sensory abundance, cultural richness and passionate people. There is just something about the “Boot” that entices us, seduces us, romances us and engages every aspect of our being . . . the body, the mind, the heart and the soul. Perhaps this is why, when you step off the plane, your step lightens and your spirits lift . . . and, regardless of one’s ethnicity, your “Inner Italian” blossoms forth. The “Inner Italian” is that delicious part of all of us that falls in love most easily and is the most expansive, expressive, spontaneous and joyful.
We all need to travel to Italy, whether by boat or plane, or simply in our hearts and imagination. Buon Viaggio!