Sunday, August 14, 2011 10:36 pm EST

An Italian "closed for vacation" sign
Ferragosto is an Italian holiday celebrated on August 15.

Originally, it may have related to a celebration of the middle of the summer (estate) and the end of the hard labor in the fields (campi). However, the Catholic Church celebrates (celebra) this date to commemorate the Assumption (assunzione) of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven (paradiso).

On this day Italy closes. From Ferragosto to the end of the month Italian cities are pretty much empty (vuote). Losing as much as two thirds of their population (popolazione), life is hard – and unusually quiet – for those staying behind. Bakers (fornai) don't bake and the pharmacists (farmacisti) don't, well... "pharm." Most businesses (negozi) and factories just shut off the lights (luci), turn the key (chiave) in the lock and walk away leaving the typical "chiuso per ferie" (closed for vacation) sign (cartello) on their shop windows (vetrine).

Beaches (spiagge) and other vacation sites are crowded (affollati), and typically on Ferragosto, Italians have a nice lunch (pranzo) that ends with a big and cold (fredda) slice (fetta) of watermelon (anguria). In the evening you can choose among any kind of fun events (eventi) that are going on all over Italy often topped by beautiful fireworks!

Buon ferragosto!