Next Monday marks the beginning of the six-day celebration’s 393rd edition.

Known locally as ‘u fistinu, the festival is in honour of Palermo’s patron saint, Saint Rosalia, particularly revered for her role in helping the community battle the plague in 1624.

Santa Rosalia, or Rosalia Sinibaldi, was born into an aristocratic family in 1130 and lived in the court of King Ruggero.

Despite having been promised to Count Baldovino, the saint’s devotion to God led her to reject his marriage proposal.

The Santuzza then took refuge in a cave on Mount Pellegrino, where she lived the life of a hermit until her death in 1166.

The birth of the first ‘fistinu was in 1624, when Saint Rosalia appeared in a vision to a hunter from Palermo.

Legend has it that she told the hunter the location of her body, which had been missing since her death.

When the hunter returned to the city, where the locals were suffering from a devastating plague, he informed everyone about the apparition.

A group of locals then went to the mountain, and dug up the saint’s remains, taking them back to Palermo.

As the relics passed through the streets of the infested city, they healed the people from the plague.

Saint Rosalia was fervently celebrated as the city’s patron saint from that day on.

Even today, locals sing praise to the Santuzza:

Notti e ghiornu farìa sta via!
Viva Santa Rusulia!
Ogni passu ed ogni via!
Viva Santa Rusulia!
Ca nni scanza di morti ria!
Viva Santa Rusulia!
Ca nn’assisti a l’agunia!
Viva Santa Rusulia!
Virginedda gluriusa e pia
Viva Santa Rusulia!

While the festival dedicated to Saint Rosalia lasts almost a week, its final days are the most anticipated and draw thousands of spectators.

On July 14, a grand procession takes place, featuring a 50-foot-high float, or carro, which carries a statue of the saint and a musical band playing traditional folk tunes.

The vessel-shaped float is hauled by oxen and accompanied by a group of energetic dancers, making for a thrilling theatrical event.

The procession begins at Palermo’s stunning cathedral and makes its way through the city’s ancient quarter Cassaro, to the Foro Italico, culminating in a striking firework display.

The next day, a silver urn containing the relics of Saint Rosalia is taken from its usual home in the city’s cathedral and carried around the streets, before returning to the cathedral where it is blessed by the Archbishop of Palermo.

During the week of festivities, traditional specialties associated with the festival are enjoyed by locals.

These delectable dishes include pasta con le sarde (pasta with sardines), sfinciuni (Sicilian pizza), beddu purpu (boiled octopus) with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and babbaluci (small boiled snails) sauteed with olive oil, garlic and parsley.

A delicious slice of watermelon found at the milunaru (watermelon vendor) stand is a perfectly refreshing way to finish the feast in honour of Saint Rosalia.