Words by Michelle Fabio

One of Sicily's largest and most celebrated festivals, Il Festino of Santa Rosalia, takes place in Palermo on 15 July; if you happen to be in the bustling southern Italian city around that time, though, you may simply hear talk of "u fistinu," as it is known locally.

Santa Rosalia, also called by the term of endearment "La Santuzza," is the patron saint of Palermo. She was an extremely pious, devout daughter of a noble Norman family descended from Charlemagne and lived out her last days in solitude in a cave on Mount Pellegrino, where she died in 1166.

Legend has it that she had been led to the cave by two angels; to mark her presence, she wrote on the wall: "I, Rosalia, daughter of Sinibald, Lord of Roses, and Quisquina, have taken the resolution to live in this cave for the love of my Lord, Jesus Christ."

Nearly 500 years after her death, when Palermo was hit with a plague, Santa Rosalia appeared to a hunter and told him to retrieve her bones, take them to Palermo, and carry them in a procession. He did as he was told, and the plague passed, a sanctuary was built in Santa Rosalia's honour on Mount Pellegrino, and she has been revered as the city's "patrona" ever since.

Relics of Santa Rosalia are kept in a silver urn inside the city's spectacular Duomo, but on her feast day, along with a towering statue, they are carried through the streets of Palermo on a large float that also supports musicians providing music. Hundreds of thousands of people gather to celebrate Santa Rosalia and follow her path from the Palazzo dei Normanni to the seaside to enjoy the "fuochi di gioia," a large fireworks display over the water.

Here are some glimpses of Palermo during past Santa Rosalia celebrations:

I personally *love* Palermo, and I would love to see the city during this festival. Have you been?

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