In Italy the 15th August is synonymous with holidays and the seaside, but the origins of the Ferragosto holiday date back to ancient times. The term Ferragosto comes from the Latin Feriae Augusti, or August rest, and it used to be the time of year when people celebrated the end of the main farming work. Of course the 15th August is also an important date in the Christian calendar, being the date of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.
It is a holiday for most people, everything is closed, cities are deserted and the beaches packed. And of course, as with any Italian tradition, there is usually a huge leisurely family lunch involved!