Ireland’s got St Patrick, Sicily’s got Saint Rosalia

Saint Patrick’s Day is a very important festivity in Ireland and many other English speaking countries, cities are decorated in green and people love to celebrate by drinking some typical Irish draughts. Although some major Italian towns experience Paddy’s Day spirit as well, Sicily has its very own patron saints which are traditionally celebrated in a very particular way.

Saint Rosalia, also called La Santuzza – literally the child saint – is the patron saint of the city of Palermo, my hometown and the capital of Sicily. Rosalia became saint, as it’s said, after she rescued the city from the Plague which beset Palermo in 1624 and even after all of these year,s people from Palermo – the most religious and churchgoers but also the less devoted – seem to venerate her as one of the most important saints of the calendar, second only to the Immaculate Conception.

Saint Rosalia Palermo

Saint Rosalia’s statue in the sanctuary at Mount Pellegrino, Palermo

The feast is celebrated on 14th of July – but it actually starts the 11th and ends the 15th – while the pilgrimage on Mount Pellegrino, where Saint Rosalia retired to life as a hermit and where she died alone at the age of 35, is the 4th of September. The feast, also called festino, is one of the main celebrations the city council cares about, because both Palermitans and tourists love it.

Rosalia Sinibaldi has been worshipped since has been declared saint, and the ceremony is held every year. It consists of a spectacular and solemn procession where people carry torchlights following the Triumphal Chariot, which brings the Holy’s statue around the city centre, from the Cathedral to the sea.

Street Food Palermo Feast

Street Food in Palermo – photo Riccardo Campolo

During the festino other attractions are carried out too, such as concerts and exhibitions with great artists, who perform the ending days of the Plague in the city. Then the feast walks into a street food festival at the Foro Italico, one of Palermo’s seaside promenades and pride of the cty, where Rosalia’s statue is carried to. The whole idea and the concept of the event is developed by following a different topic every year.

Steet food talking, Saint Rosalia‘s feast is its triumph by the way. Snails, walnuts and chickpeas, boiled octopus, watermelon, sweets, corn on the cob, cheesy spleen burgers and stigghiola – a Sicilian food typical of Palermo consisting of goat intestines filled with onions – are sold by men with handcarts along the Saint’s way and everyone is tempted by eating it.

The celebrations culminate in majestic fireworks performed over the harbour at midnight, and I can truly say that they are worth being seen – and heard. Families usually start gathering at Foro Italico since early in the morning, bringing along plenty of packed food such as lasagne or oven cooked pasta, to get the best seats along the promenade and watch the fireworks: a day they will never forget (at least till the next year).

Saint Rosalia Feast Palermo

Fireworks at the Saint Rosalia’s Feast in Palermo, Sicily

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