Religious faith is all mixed up with superstition and legend; worship is linked to ancient customs and incorporated in age-old cults which remain in the memory of peasant traditions. This occurs all over Sicily, and the province of Syracuse is no exception to this rule.
Although the city of Syracuse is now modern and apparently secularized, in December and in May there is renewed interest for the patron saint, Santa Lucia.
On December 13 a long procession goes from the Cathedral in Ortigia to the basilica of Santa Lucia fuori le Mura. A week later, the procession goes in the opposite direction, with the statue of the saint carried on the shoulders of the “beretti verdi” or “green berets”, members of the carpenters’ guild; the “Carozza del Senato”, a rococo coach with liveried footmen and pages, brings up the rear of the procession.
Saint Lucy, the Queen of Light, is also traditionally brought from Sweden to take part. The first Sunday in May is the celebration of Santa Lucia delle Quaglie, when a flight of pigeons is released in front of the saint in the gardens of the Archbishop’s Palace.
San Sebastiano is also worshipped with great devotion all over the province. The most important festivity of all, however, is that of Melilli, during the night between May 3 and 4, when the nuri, worshippers who come on foot from even the most remote corners of the province, arrive at the sanctuary.
San Sebastiano is also worshipped at Palazzolo on August 10 to celebrate the return home of the emigrants. Another extremely important date is June 29, when there is no limit to the amount of money spent in order not to appear inferior to the “Sampaulisi”, the followers of San Paolo, patron saint of the city since 1689.
Promptly at one p.m., at the same time as their “rival”, the saint is dramatically brought out of the simulacrum, with a great explosion of fireworks and a shower of nzareddi, colored paper streamers with “San Paolo Patrono di Palazzolo” printed on them.
Another well-loved festivity of Palazzolo and also of Avola, is the age-old carnival. At Noto, apart from the celebration of the patron saint San Corrado Confalonieri on the last Sunday in August, there is also the Infiorata, or flower festival, of Via Nicolaci in the second half of May.
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