Over the past two weeks, Rome has steadily purged its native population. Multitudes of Romans have departed, rather inconspicuously, leaving stores and cafes boarded-up, clad with signs reading “Chiuso Per Ferie.” This is the result of Ferragosto. Ferragosto dates back to Ancient Rome, when Octavian conquered Cleopatra and Anthony—whose sentiments and loyalties were no longer with Rome. After their defeat, Anthony fell on his sword (somewhat unsuccessfully) and Cleopatra committed suicide via venous snake. Upon return, Octavius was renamed Augustus, become the first emperor of the Roman Empire, and the period known as the Pax Romana commenced. Although the Ferragosto was an originally Pagan celebration, like many holidays, it was adopted into the Christian religion and festivities were rededicated to the Virgin Mary’s Assumption into heaven.
Although Ferragosto has taken place since Ancient Roman times, leaving the city was not compulsory until the 1920s when Fascist rulers provided trains (only on the 13th, 14th, or 15th of August) at discounted prices to smaller towns outside of Rome so that members of the lower-classes could have the opportunity to take a one- or two-day vacation and, according to Wikipedia, see the ocean. Because it is a national holiday in Italy, the office will be closed tomorrow so even expats like myself may partake in the festivities. In an effort to do true justice to the holiday, the interns are throwing a toga party.