August 15th is a relatively innocuous date in the UK. The little August 15th square on your wall calendar probably doesn’t contain any official, printed information. There must be some hardcore foodies out there who mark the birth of Julia Child, but this celebration is surely limited to a subsection of our nation’s most hardcore home chefs.
The Italians, however, take August 15th extremely seriously. It is perhaps the second most important national day after Christmas. If you’ve ever visited an Italian town on the 15th you’ll know that it’s incredibly difficult to spot a genuine local. And good luck getting any business done in Italy in August, most companies close their doors for at least a week.
This year is, of course, a double whammy. Towns are not only devoid of Italians but almost empty of tourists. The photo above (sent in by customer Charles Beck – thank you, Charles) shows St Mark’s Square in Venice earlier this week. If you’ve ever been, you’ll know that to cross St Mark’s Square is to run the gauntlet of kamikaze pigeons, protruding selfie sticks, and over zealous ‘officials’ who do everything in their power to stop you sitting, eating, or smiling.
So what’s the significance of August 15th?
August 15th marks the beginning of Ferragosto, the traditional start of summer in Italy. It’s been celebrated since 18 BC when Emperor Augustus named the day after himself and encouraged everyone to drink, be merry, and watch horse racing. Some of the horse races still exist; remember the Italian horse race in the Daniel Craig James Bond film? That’s the Palio di Siena, which takes place on 16th August.
And where do all the Italians go?
In the last century Mussolini got his hands on Ferragosto, providing discounted train fares for all. Cheap journeys enabled working class Italians to see the rest of the country. A tradition which endures today as urbanites decamp en masse to the beaches or mountains.
And what about Ferragosto at La Tua?
As you can imagine most of us are Italian. And despite living in London it’s difficult to give up the celebration of summer. So it’s fair to say that La Tua HQ is a little quieter this week. Ferragosto is, however, the perfect opportunity to test new pasta creations on family members. If we get the family seal of approval then you could have a new product in the online shop this autumn.