We woke up to birdsong and a great big blue sky. Our morning here consists of breakfast on the rooftop and Peppa’s beautiful smile and great sense of humor. Peppa works at this B&B San Placido Inn and prepares breakfast for us in the morning. She is from Bulgaria, talks a million miles per minute in Italian, and is ever so funny. Rick is very intrigued by her since he has met very few Bulgarians and is eager to ask her questions and engage her in conversation. She is extremely friendly and has a lot to say in answer to Rick’s hungry questions. Guess who gets to be the interpreter at 8am? Ecco la!! So I listen and translate and do my best to catch up with these two eccentric minds whose ideas bounce back and forth as if in a fast-play tennis match.
More on St. Agata’s story below and an interesting website that helps people locate where her statue is during the procession festivities:
“Saint Agatha lived during the 3rd century AD, and yet 1,700 years later the entire city stops for three days to remember a strong girl who said no to a man.”
“She was a teenager from a wealthy family who had decided to devote her life to God. When she refused the advances of a Roman prefect (Sicily was then under the rule of the Roman Empire), he had her tortured in many ways, including severing her breasts. This episode has even inspired a local sweet in the shape of breast, minne di Sant Agata (St. Agatha’s breasts).
The Feast of Saint Agatha is the most important religious festival of Catania, attracting many people from the surrounding areas and tourists – it is estimated that up to a million people line the streets of the city during the three-day festa.
“For a few days, people forget their problems, their differences, their social class and just focus on venerating Saint Agatha in an incredible mystical atmosphere. Everyone experiences the celebration in different ways, not everyone is a religious devotee, for some it is a photo opportunity.
The three-day festa has a long and busy program. It opens on February 3 with a midday procession of eleven candelore, large candle-shaped structures symbolizing the guilds, and two carriages belonging to the old local Senate with the highest religious and civil authorities of Catania. It ends in the evening in Piazza Duomo, where the St. Agatha Cathedral is located, with a fireworks display.
On the morning of the 4th, a statue of Saint Agatha holding her relics is placed on a 40,000 pound silver fercolo, or carriage, and carried around the city by devotees until it is returned to the Cathedral late at night, or, sometimes, even at dawn.
On the morning of the 5th, Mass is held at the Cathedral. Throughout the day, the reliquary bust of St. Agatha is exposed there. In the afternoon, it is taken for another procession, ending in the early morning of the 6th.
With such a long procession and so many different highlights, as a non-Catanese, how do you know where to go, what to do, what not to miss?
“Actually, this is also a problem for many of the locals. During the days of the festival, devotees wander the streets day and night in search of the saint, asking themselves, “Unni ie’ a’ Santa?”, Where is the saint? This is why to help everyone answer the question and honor St. Agatha, there is a website called Unni ie’ a’ Santa (Where is the saint?).”