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.
Everybody falls in love with Italy. For some, it happens on the streets of Florence or Rome, or on the sun-soaked Amalfi coast, or perhaps over pizza in a small trattoria or on a misty morning in Venice. Once you’re smitten, it then happens over and over and if you haven’t yet discovered the beautiful region of Apulia, Italy’s “heel,” you must, for you will fall ever more deeply in love.
For decades, Puglia has been a popular summer destination for northern Italians and, still thankfully, it remains a place unmistakably by Italians and for Italians. Without the flashy jewelry, La Bella Puglia nonchalantly showcases her unique cultural identity and spectacular coastline bathed by the Adriatic and Ionian Seas. Home to the Boot’s most ancient olive groves and the Baroque jewel of a city, Lecce, (deserving of a separate slideshow that’s coming soon!), Puglia basks in Italy’s southern light and is a land of extremes. Deep sapphire waters offset intensely white towns; miles of olive trees cover the horizon, sprinkled with compact villages. With the heat and sun comes the region’s propensity for languid living . . . time seems to pass more slowly, giving one the opportunity to appreciate every detail and richness of la dolce vita.
[Towns featured here include: Alberobello, Locorotondo, Martina Franca, Ostuni, Gallipoli, Ortranto and Polignano a Mare.]
Forty minutes from Murano, world famous for its glass, is the island village of Burano, famous for its lace … and where the dazzling colors of locales like the Caribbean meet the haunting qualities of the Venetian lagoons. Many visitors to Venice, perhaps forgetting one out of confusion with the other, or perhaps due to time constraints, choose to go to Murano and not take the second 40-minute vaporetto journey to its almost-namesake. But those who do are treated to some very yummy eye-candy. Along the canals are charming two-story houses — cherry, pink, chartreuse, azure, tangerine and canary yellow, with contrasting-hued shutters, brightly patterned curtains for doors, window boxes and ceramic pots overflowing with flowers, and some very nicely art-directed clotheslines.
No one really knows how all this exuberance began, but there are, naturally, many stories about the origin of Burano’s vivacious color scheme. One plausible suggestion was that back in the day, painting each house a different color helped define property lines. Another more amusing, though less plausible suggestion is that on days of winter fog or very rough seas, the fishermen could not go fishing and spent their day playing cards and drinking vino. By the evening they were feeling so festive they couldn’t recognize their own houses. So it was decided to paint every house a different color so every wife could be sure the right man would return to the right home after a day on the town.