Do you know what “festino” (or fistinu) means? Fistinu is the Sicilian word to indicate the Festino of Santa Rosalia, a huge festivity dedicated to the Patron Saint of Palermo: Saint Rosalia. Tradition wants that on the 15th of July 1624 in a cave inside mount Pellegrino, the famous mountain of Palermo, were founded the remainings of this virgin saint that had lived as recluse there.
In that period Palermo-city was suffering from a terrible plague.
The Saint appeared to a man saying that those bones were hers and she suggested that if he would put them on a carriage and go around the city she would cure the people and save them from the plague.
So he did and the miracle happened, people actually recovered from the terrible disease and Palermo was safe again.
The carriage (big pic above) with the statue of the Saint starts moving from the Cathedral of Palermo (pic up on the left) to the “Quattro Canti” (pic here on the right) and down to “Porta Felice and the Foro Italico”, near the sea (pic below), where everything usually ends with one hour of the most beautiful and colorful fireworks.
A very important moment is when the Mayor gets on the carriage and says the very traditional words: “Viva Palermo e viva Santa Rosalia!” (literally ‘Hurrah for Palermo and Saint Rosalia’).
It’s definetely a mixture of myth, devotion and popular tradition that make this event so particular but it’s also important to understand the metaphor behind it.
We remember those ancient days in which she saved our city from plague, but we hope and pray she can help us cure once again our diseases, setting us free from the evils that afflict our society and our troubled lives and in particular our city.
While walking in the crowd I met a small group of American tourists looking a bit deafened and dazed about what this was all about. A girl looked at me and said: “We don’t understand!”… so I tried to explain a little bit of this story. Her eyes were about to pop out. Hilarious!!!
If you want to visit western Sicily you are very welcome all year around, but there is no more popular and traditional event than this one to feel and get in touch with the real atmosphere of the capital.
Just remember that you should be prepared to tolerate the tremendous heat and walk for about 4 hours with thousands and thousands of noisy Sicilians chatting, munching and folkloristicly shouting: “VIVA PALERMO E SANTA ROSALIA!” :-)))
Definetely an experience that cannot be missed!!!