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On August 15th in Italy it’s Ferragosto Day. Ferragosto is a holiday invented by Cesar August, who granted rest and entertainment to his fellow citizens during the period in which he moved to his summer villas. Thus, the “Ferie Augustee“, since Roman times, are an unmissable event in Italy. The feast was later “adopted” by Christianity – during the Middle Ages – and transformed into the day in honor of Our Lady of the Assumption. But the sacred meaning of the event has never removed from people’s minds the desire to have fun. Italians usually celebrate Ferragosto at the sea, on the beach, on a boat. They eat around a bonfire waiting for the dawn. But if you want to change your perspective, for once, you could also celebrate August 15th on Mount Etna.

Why celebrate August 15th on Etna?

Why decide to celebrate the most important day of summer, August 15th, on the mountain, away from the waves of the sea and the entertainment of the coast? Maybe just to experience it in a different way. Or to escape that “tradition” which – over the years – has also become noise and confusion. Crowded streets and beaches do not attract everyone, some are looking for a bit of serenity.
And then, Ferragosto still falls into the week of the “shooting stars”. On the mountain, the sky is clearer than on the coast, and you can admire the stars in a spectacular way. Of course, you cannot light fires in the middle of the protected woods of the Regional Park of Etna, but if you are lucky … the volcano itself shall light a special fire!

ferragosto etna_ (2)August 15th at Etna North to admire the stars

If you are fond of nature and peaceful locations, your Ferragosto on Etna will be a night excursion. The nature guides – the only skilled people able to lead you between lava rocks and gullies in the middle of the night – often organize such events. You can go up at sunset and wait for the night at high altitude, or wander with torches in search of a place where to admire the stars. The north side of the volcano has the best view for the stars. On that side, in fact, there are fewer urban centers, fewer artificial lights and the night sky stands out more clearly.

The best idea is to camp on Monte Nero, one of the vents of the 2002 eruption.

For those who know how to tackle the toughest paths, the Pizzi Deneri Observatory is a spectacular place to wait for the night of August 15th.

A good place for a “stellar August 15th”, however, is also the path of Piano dei Grilli, to the west side of the volcano, in the territory of Bronte.

August 15th sacred and profane

To celebrate Ferragosto with a closer link to the Catholic tradition, stay on the northern side of Etna and enjoy the Randazzo festival.

The celebration in honor of Our Lady of the Assumption, in this wonderful medieval center, takes place by mixing the sacred and the profane. A very high (20 meters!) allegorical float is carried in procession among the wings of a cheering crowd, after the masses in honor of the Virgin Mary. The day before the town welcomes the statue of the Virgin Asleep. The whole community participates in the event and also involves tourists.

On the other side, on the southern flank of Etna, another procession dedicated to Mary takes place on August 15th: it is in the municipality of Belpasso. Here the statue of Our Lady of Grace is the absolute protagonist and celebrated with songs, sacred representations and processions. A spectacular, colorful and noisy festival takes place in Aci Catena, where the patron Madonna della Catena blesses the city with fireworks and sacred songs.

A “tasty” August 15th on Etna

Every year on Ferragosto Day dozens of small and large village festivals take place around the bulk of Etna. You will find tastings and celebrations of typical products almost everywhere. However, the ideal is to have a nice night picnic with the best products of Etna: Linguaglossa sausage, Milo and Castiglione wines, Zafferana honey, the Pasta alla Norma cooked in the oven (but eat it cold!) according to the Catania tradition.

Many festivals link to religious festivals and are part of the programs for the celebrations of a Saint or the Virgin Mary. Try the food and wine festival of Castiglione di Sicilia, the Pedara food fair, but also the events organized at high altitude at the Sapienza Refuge (with lunches and dinners of August), in the territory of Nicolosi, stand out. (photos by Grazia Musumeci)

Autore: Grazia Musumeci

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