Festino di Santa Rosalia
After a 4 hour walk of Siracusa, a 1 hour bus wait and 3 hour bus ride, we make it to the Palermo train/bus station and our first thought is – ‘get a cab and go to our hotel for shower.’
That is exactly what we did.
Before I continue, for the new followers (welcome!), you must know that I do not plan before I travel.
I know I want to go to a certain city/region and I rely on finding things by chance or talking to the locals to discover what to see and do, where to eat etc.
For Palermo, it was no different.
Anyway, we get in the taxi and the driver starts asking me questions about where we are from etc and then he asks ‘so you are here to experience the Festino di Santa Rosalia?’.
I responded honestly and explained that we had no idea what that was. You could say that this is where our journey through Palermo really got exciting, as with those playing Pokemon Go, we had a mission to capture amazing experiences – see firsthand the awesome procession that blocks the entire city of Palermo for 7 days.
So what is Festino di Santa Rosalia?
Giovanni, our taxi driver, said that we arrived in Palermo at the best time, as days of festivities await and the whole city comes together to celebrate.
Celebrations start on 8 July and the apice of the celebration is on the night of July 14. The artistic and popular festivities reach the peak with the great “popular procession”.
The procession starts from the Cathedral, passing through the Porta Felice, to the sea. There is a significance behind the ‘path’ the procession takes – the dead (the plague) to life (the light of the fireworks on the seashore).
According to Giovanni, from start to finish the procession can take up to 4-5 hours!
A true local experience in Palermo
Food stalls cover the city in preparation for the evening festivities and decorations line the streets of this impressive city – even as you first arrive you are in awe of its beauty.
The procession of Santa Rosalia is a great local tradition but what stands out are the people showing their devotion to Santa Rosalia.
The night kicks off at 6:00pm as the streets close, the air is filled with music, local songs, laughter and the aromas of Sicilian delicacies embrace you, as you head towards the sea.
While we missed it, traditionally, at the Quattro Canti , the mayor in office places flowers at the foot of the Santa statue shouting “Viva Palermo and Santa Rosalia!” and then to the Navy (the Forum area), where a huge fireworks display takes place on the ‘lungomare’.
During the celebrations do not forget about the food! Traditional dishes to try, as you walk through the city: Pasta with sardines (A pasta chi sardi), the babbaluci (boiled snails with garlic and parsley), the Sicilian pizza (‘u sfinciuni), boiled octopus (‘ u purpu), Calia and simenza (‘u scacciu), boiled corn on the cob (pullanca) and watermelon (called’ u muluni).
You can really tell that The Feast of Santa Rosalia belongs to Palermo and all of the Palermitani.
A festivity we had no idea was going to be on while there and we had the fortune to experience.
If you are looking for a true local spectacle, then make sure to make your trip to Palermo in July!
Where to Stay?
I relied on Booking.com for our Sicily trip and for Palermo, we found a great deal at the central, clean and well presented B&B Cubbaita.
Salvatore, the owner, is a great host and he helped us explore Palermo the best way we could, in the limited amount of time available.
Breakfast is great and the overall environment is fantastic. I highly recommend this B&B when visiting Palermo.
Where to eat and what to drink?
I highlighly recommend a lunch of Arancini at the delicious Arancine D’Autore.
Here is a whole shop of arancini of ALL types and the varieties can accommodate all dietary requirements! So no one has to miss out on enjoying an Arancino!
For dinner, Salvatore the owner of the B&B we were staying at, recommended a number of restaurants and we ended up at Buatta!
The place was packed and we got the ‘social table’ where we met some great people and shared a glass of wine and stories of our amazing trip.
I highly recommend the social table if you are not shy and enjoy talking to other travellers.
Speaking of Wine
Porta del Vento is an interesting winery, with a great selection of wines.
We went for the Catarratto, one of the most ancient native vines of Sicily. It is a fresh, clean, full-bodied, well-balanced and with good length on the palate.
An ideal pairing with the local fresh fish dishes served at Buatta.
Getting from Siracusa to Palermo
From Siracusa to Palermo, the trip is approximately 3 hour 30min (more or less) with Interbus*.
A one way ticket is 13.50EUR (2016 prices) in a huge, air-conditioned bus.
We found that the prices was incredibly reasonable and the buses relatively on time, which was a bit of a shock.
Buses from Siracusa to Palermo only run twice a day – 8:00am and 2:00pm. We took the 2:00pm bus to enjoy Siracusa a little longer.
*the website is in Italian but it has the option to translate the page using Google Translate on the top right*
Car or no car, we made it to Palermo and we could not have been happier of our trip around this amazing island, that is Sicily.
Think you will take part in the Festino di Santa Rosalia when you go to Palermo? 😉
If you liked what you read and saw, make sure to share on social media and spread the Tourist by Chance word – Italy is wonderful!