Photo of Effems. On the night between 14 and 15 July every year in Palermo the cult of the patron saint of the city , Santa Rosalia, is celebrated in memory of the miracle that saved the city of Palermo from the terrible plague epidemic of 1624.
Over the years the “feast” it has been enriched with meanings, even secular ones, with choreographies and scenographies which, however, always maintain a very strong symbolism linked to tradition and religious worship.
An unmissable appointment for any self-respecting Palermitan, the party attracts onlookers from all over Sicily and amazes tourists who, for the occasion or by chance, find themselves involved in the celebrations.

Edition 2022: the program of events has not yet been released. As soon as they become available, we will update the article. In the meantime, you will find information about the previous edition, which we recall was held in a greatly reduced size due to the pandemic.

2021 Festival Program
Photo by Marie Ccheidzeova. The 397th edition of the Festino di Santa Rosalia is certainly resized compared to the past. There are no parades, shows and concerts, but the desire to celebrate the “Santuzza” remains unchanged.
From 10 to 15 July the celebratory float is exhibited at the Quattro Canti. The area surrounding the cart, the whole Cassaro (road from Porta Nuova to Porta Felice) and Piazza Monte di Pieta is illuminated by over 65,000 LED bulbs.
On July 14th at 8:30 pm the two light installations curated by the artists Sergio Caminita (Repetita Iuvant) and Anna Cottone (In Lucem) come to life.
To end the event on the night between 14 and 15 July , there are the traditional pyrotechnic games, which however are not located in the Foro Italico as usual, but are located between five different villages, in order to avoid the creation of a single large gathering.
Below is the program in summary :

  • Day 10 : exhibition of the celebratory float in Piazza Villena (Quattro Canti), which will be removed after July 15, at the end of the celebrations
  • Day 14 : from 8.30 pm on of the light installations entitled “Rosalia, Luce mia”
  • Day 15 : at 00:00 the fireworks will take place in five different villages

The origins of the Festino: the story of Santa Rosalia

Rosalia Sinibaldi was born in Palermo in 1128. A girl of noble origins, she lived her youth among the comforts of the Norman court of Roger II, until a fortuitous episode changed her life radically: Count Baldovino , during a hunting trip, saving the life of King Roger, attacked by a ferocious beast. The Norman king was immensely grateful to the young man, promising him any reward. Count Baldovino’s request was the young Rosalia, who was thus betrothed to him .
The very young Rosalia did not want to think even for a moment about the possibility of marrying the count, and the day after her request, she cut her blond braids and took her vows .
He decided to find shelter in a cave on Monte Pellegrino . She too was soon joined by pilgrimages, and on 4 September 1165 she was found dead in the cave, aged only 37.

The Miracle of Santa Rosalia
Photo by Effems. In 1624 Palermo was threatened by a terrible plague epidemic , which was decimating the population day after day. At that time, in the Sicilian capital there was the cult of 4 Patron Saints , one for each district, placed in the central niches of the Quattro Canti, in the heart of the city center: Santa Ninfa, Santa Cristina, Santa Oliva and Sant’Agata. However, the prayers addressed to them had no effect.
Some time before,a hunter received in a dream the visit of a Virgin , who invited him to go in search of the relics of Santa Rosalia on Monte Pellegrino, right near the cave that housed the young Rosalia until her death. The hunter armed with courage ascended the imposing promontory, starting the search for the bones with a good cheer. Once found, he delivers them to the then Archbishop of Palermo, but many doubts emerged about the veracity of the story and, therefore, of the relics themselves.
While the terrible “Black Death” epidemic raged, a poor soap maker, Vincenzo Bonelli, who lived by bartering furniture and had lost his wife because of the plague, decided to end it all and, having climbed to the top of Monte Pellegrino, was collecting all the energy and the courage to throw yourself downstairs. Just at that moment, a young and luminous figure of a pilgrim appeared before him, urging him to follow his instructions: he told him to come down from the mountain, be received by the Archbishop and inform him that the relics about which so many doubts had been raised, were in his truths, of the young Rosalia Sinibaldi, and that as soon as they were carried in procession, the plague would suddenly end. As proof of the truth of what has been said, the figure prophesies to the man, up to that moment remained immune to the epidemic, death: And as a sign of the truth, on arriving in Palermo, you will fall ill with this sick woman and you will die. Poor Vincenzo Bonelli faced with this event could not help but carry out what was indicated to him.
The Archbishop acknowledged the actual sudden collapse of the man’s conditions , and having made all previous attempts vain, he decided to give credit to his words and carry the bones in procession along the streets of the city.

The Plague vanished in a short time, as only a miracle would have been able to do: since then, no one allowed himself to doubt the Saint anymore, who in one fell swoop overthrew the 4 previous patrons, rising to the role of the one and only Patron Saint of Palermo .

The party today
Photo by Dedda71. Since then, almost without interruption, the Festino di Santa Rosalia is celebrated every year on July 14th and 15th .
The celebrations consist of a procession of the launch through the streets of the Cassaro, Corso Vittorio Emanuele, the main artery of the city. After crossing Porta Felice, the procession ends at the sea, with a riot of fireworks, representing the passage from darkness (death) to light (life).
In recent years the chariot has taken the form of a dark-colored boat, representing the ships of the “Turks” who brought the plague from North Africa. The chariot is dominated by the figure of the Saint and by ornaments that contain the symbolism of the name of her name: roses and a lily (Rosa-Lilium).

Images and videos of the Festino di Santa Rosalia
Passage of the Chariot of Santa Rosalia to the Quattro Canti

Street art shows in Piazza Pretoria

Fireworks on the Cathedral floor

Fireworks on the Prato del Foro Italico

Fireworks on the Prato del Foro Italico

Procession of the urn with the relics

Procession of the Chariot of Santa Rosalia

Stalls with calia and simenza

Video of the procession of the urn with the Relics

Chariot in procession along the cassaro


Useful info

  • Dates : from 10 to 15 July 2021
  • Location : Palermo, Centro Storico – Get directions
  • Admission : free
  • Contacts : [email protected]
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