Today, August 15, is Ferragosto. It's a national holiday in Italy. Basically what that means is just about everything will be closed, and Italians will be heading to either the beach or the mountains for a long weekend. Ferrogosto is a celebration of the harvest, and also a celebration of the Assumption of Mary into heaven, and dates back to Emperor Augustus. I haven't quite figured out how they mixed a religious holiday with a pagan festival, but, they did.
What we've noticed is that around the first week in August, we start to see signs on shops, caffes and restaurants indicating they are closed for FERIE- holiday. Return dates are somewhere around the last week in August. Looks to me like everyone plans their annual summer vacation to include Ferragosto.
Shops that weren't closed already for the holiday are certainly closed for Ferrogosto. Today Venice seemed empty, at least it was in my neighborhood. We live close to the train station and Piazzale Roma, so we normally see a fair amount of foot traffic coming and going from these areas past our street. Today was particularly quiet. Even the grocery stores were only open half a day. Everyone else must have headed for the Lido.