Fifteenth of August, Ferragosto.
To quote Wilikepdia,
The popular tradition of taking a trip during Ferragosto arose under the Fascist regime. 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.
Sometimes called “La Madòna d’Agùst” (the August Madonna) in Piedmont, the 15th of August is still a very popular holiday in Italy, and a total lock-down day in a lot of places in Italy.
Shops, restaurants and bars, end even museums are closed for business, and tourists wander aimlessly through ghost-town-like cities. Seaside localities are crowded and mountain paths are busy like supermarket aisles,and the smoke of barbecues rises from a thousand spots.
In recent years, it’s true, the situation slackened somewhat – you can find open shops in big cities, and museums are “exceptionally” open. Big tourist spots like Florence or Venice attract vast crowds, and Ferragosto in such big places can be frustrating, and stressful.
But in a small countryside center like Nizza Monferrato, where tourism is still seen by many as a niche activity, the situation can become critical as the place is basically deserted.
So, here’s a few survival tips.
While you can assume shops will be closed, look for the Chiuso a Ferragosto sign some bars and restaurants expose. If in doubt, ask. Avoid the surprise of taking a walk to your favorite restaurant just to find out it’s closed.
Also, this might be a good opportunity to try some place you never tried before.
Stop by in a supermarket and get yourself some emergency provisions. Set yourself up with some sandwiches and water, and prepare yourself for a day of urban exploration.
Enjoy the silence…
Find yourself a nice bench in the shade and just enjoy the quiet and the cool breeze. It’s not often that we can have a whole city to ourselves.
… or Start a Conversation
After all, we are all wanderers on the deserted streets of the town. Why not greet each other, have a chat, and maybe trade a few suggestions?
Get ready to party
A good thing about Ferragosto is that in a lot of villages in the area, you will find some kind of celebration or “sagra” going. Check out the billboards on Piazza Garibaldi for a choice of destination within a few kilometers. It may be a good opportunity to try some local food, listen to some music, and mix with the population.
With a modicum of luck, things will go back to normal on the 16th – even if the whole week of Ferragosto might be like a desert to be crossed carefully.