Insights and curiosities

Feast of St. Anne in Ischia, between rituals and folklore

Between tradition and ritual, the Sea Festival at the rocks of Sant'Anna in Ischia renews the magic every year, enchanting thousands of tourists from all over the world.

A bay in celebration, an entire island in celebration. Between religion and folklore, myths and rituals. For a timeless spectacle that exalts the connection with the sea, which is naturally ancestral here, and with life, which is renewed (also) through the intercession of the saint. And again: a hymn to summer and beauty, at the foot of the Aragonese Castle becoming the privileged backdrop, and then the absolute protagonist, of an evening that Ischia has been waiting for for a year.

Unmissable experiences on Easter weekend in Ischia

The Sea Festival at St. Anna’s rocks is staged on July 26 in the stretch of water of Cartaromana Bay, which becomes a large stage. Parading are the large allegorical boats built in weeks of passionate creative work by local associations, heirs to a long tradition of craftsmanship and artistry.
A qualified jury chooses the most beautiful, along with side prizes commemorating great figures of the past and, of course, a prize that comes from public approval. An audience consisting of thousands of people crowded along the Ischia Ponte pier and on the rocks: these are the enthusiastic spectators of what takes place on the sea, a choreographic and colorful dance of shapes and figures, told with an almost radio-like conduction, with musical sketches and great guests in succession. But it doesn’t end there: spectators know that the climax of the evening involves the Castle, which suddenly catches fire, as if by magic, in the middle of the night. It thus re-enacts-by spectacular simulation-the ancient fires of Saracen raiders. Manor and slopes of the islet turn fiery red to the unmistakable notes of “Blue Dolphin” by composer Stephen Schlaks, now – by popular acclaim – the event’s quintessential soundtrack. All before the pyromusical show, an astonishing conclusion to the Festival: it is attended by the people of the boats and goiters, it is attended by islanders and tourists along the streets or, again, by those who carve out a place for themselves on the terraces of hotels and restaurants, all the way to Campagnano Hill. From up there, the party is a suggestion.

Easter traditions and folklore in Ischia

But this remains, above all, an event rooted in deep popular devotion. Its origins date back to 1932; it was there that the tradition became a Festival. And the procession of fishermen, who led wives and children giving birth to the church of Sant’Anna, nestled in the bay, asking for the grace of a safe and serene birth suddenly became a challenge of creativity, a collective ritual that would enliven the summers of Ischia. The gozzetti began to embellish themselves, amid colorful garlands and small votive offerings: then they became allegorical boats and, today, giant rafts with which Ischitan artists love to represent, with imagination and talent, small and big stories, embellishing them with scenic staging. All around is the festive participation of the people of summer, consuming eggplant parmigiane and watermelon parmigiane in an orgy of flavors and fragrances that infect multiple generations and set in motion in the days leading up to the Festival, when the village of Ischia Ponte experiences its eve of dips and aperitifs, prayers and processions, including one by boat, with parturients attending mass in the little church on July 25 afternoon. With hands in prayer, the saint is asked to protect the life to come, to ask for a respite from the pains of labor, to pray that the pregnancy will go well or that even sweet expectation will come when it is too long in coming. Then the Festival comes, and the sea is set ablaze with beauty.

Bagged bean, a bridge between the past and the future

This year the Sea Festival at St. Anna’s rocks celebrates its 92nd edition. As we await the publication of the official program, with the artistic cast and the associations involved in the construction of the boats, it is a case of getting organized as best you can to experience one of the most identifiable events on the island of Ischia’s billboard, and beyond. To grasp its meaning, it is necessary not to limit oneself to the heart of the evening-clou but to capture the suggestions of the long eve of the event, seeing the allegorical boats take shape on the island’s beaches or in the sea of Ischia Ponte and perhaps rolling up one’s sleeves, in the aftermath of the Festival, to take part in “Operation St. Anna,” the great bay cleaning contest organized by theNeptune’s Kingdom marine protected area. Because for the past few years the Festival has been designed to have minimal impact on ecosystems. In full respect of the beauty of the island.

Stay updated on the 2024 festival program here

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