For many UK homeowners, the idea of having an outdoor kitchen, bespoke-built wood-fired oven area or stand-alone wood-fired pizza oven, is one based on evoking sensations experienced abroad.
Hours may have been spent watching pizzas being turned out of a wood-fired oven by an Italian maestro, or sitting on a terrace, sipping a lovely crisp white Italian wine, whilst food was being prepared in a rented villa’s outdoor kitchen.
In Italy, there is not greater celebration of this type of lifestyle than ‘Ferragosto’, the highlight of summer in Italy and falling on August 15, a Monday in 2022.
In Italy, this is a day when families fire up their wood-fired ovens and celebrate together, bringing everyone into one outdoor space to enjoy excellent food and brilliant company. Many will also be able to take advantage of entertainment provided by nearby festivals, timed to coincide with the day. For instance, in the town of Diano Marina in Liguria, Ferragosto brings with it a festival of the sea. In Montepulciano in Tuscany, on the other hand, a historical pageant thrills locals and tourists alike. In Sassari in Sardinia, enormous decorative candles are paraded through the streets for the Festa dei Candelieri. Almost everywhere, you will see fireworks, hear music and laughter and be surrounded by excitable Italian chatter.
Should you be lucky enough to be in Siena, of course, what you will find happening is the famous Palio dell’Assunta – the horse race staged within the city’s medieval walls, which has even been featured in a Bond movie.
Ferragosto was once a Roman festival – Feriae Augusti – celebrating Emperor Augustus’s victory over Marc Antony at the Battle of Augusti. Workers who had endured many long hours in the fields, gathering in the harvest, celebrated it on August 1. Later, the Church stepped in and moved it to August 15, to reinforce the celebration of the Assumption of Mary. Nowadays, it’s just a great excuse for a family get-together and catch up.
Food and Ferragosto
Mussolini was not just the leader who got the trains running on time; he also laid on special holiday trains to the seaside or mountains, at exceptionally low prices, for the lower classes. These trains ran on August 14, 15 and 16 and led to days out that encompassed a Ferragosto lunch, wherever the worker and family chose to picnic.
This Ferragosto lunch became a phenomenon – a true celebration of summer, the harvest, family life and friendship and the reason why the wood-fired ovens are in overdrive on August 15 these days.
Creating a Ferragosto feel in your UK garden
You don’t have to stick to August 15 to create Ferragosto UK style, although, if you are off with the kids during the summer holidays, you might wish to. What you do need is the outdoor wood-fired oven that can provide the audible wood crackles and the aromas of delightful burning wood that really make outdoor living and eating special.
If you haven’t already got an outdoor wood-fired oven in your garden, you should consider how you could add that feature and enjoy as many ‘Ferragosto’ style experiences as you could possibly want in a year.
You could include a wood-fired oven within a full outdoor kitchen build, making it a centrepiece which is also complimented by other culinary devices, such as an upmarket barbecue, plancha, wok ring, even a Brazilian-style grill and, of course, supported by workhorse type equipment – fridges, dishwasher and sink. Orchard Ovens’ team have helped create stunning outdoor kitchens worldwide, delivering everything within them from a traditional English pub counter, complete with beer bumps, to a champagne and prosecco bar.
On the other hand, you could go for full-on Italian authenticity and make an artisan-built Valoriani oven the centrepiece of a full oven build, which ‘wraps’ the oven within a beautiful, rustic, contemporary or truly dramatic surround. This can be to any design of your choice, using any materials that are suitable and fire-retardant and in keeping with your taste. Orchard Ovens has hundreds of these bespoke designs to show you, if you need inspiration, having been helping homeowners realise their oven-build dreams for over 20 years.
Outdoor wood-fired and gas pizza ovens to get you started
If, however, you just wish to start your outdoor living, Ferragosto-style journey and want to do that as quickly as possible, there is the option of a Fornino ready-to-go ‘pizza’ oven, which can again be tailored to the ‘look’ you want to achieve. The beauty of this is that you can get going with your wood-fired adventure quickly, whether you opt for a wheeled Fornino on a stand or situate it on a suitable base in your garden. Should you wish to, you can even skip the cooking with wood process and opt for a gas-fired Fornino instead. As with all of our ovens, the Fornino can cook far more than just pizza.
Inject the Ferragosto feel into your garden or outdoor space and you will not be disappointed. Once the taste buds enjoy that seabass puttanesca or steak in red wine that you’ve cooked outdoors, you will never look back … or want to return to cooking indoors. It’s a new way of living, but one that can be a huge step up from what you’ve known before.