The story of Restituta from Africa, the Christian martyr of the third century AD who is the Patron Saint of the island of Ischia from time immemorial, is shrouded in legend or in the miracle of Fait.
Restituta was a girl of Bizerte, a city in the today's Tunisia and converted to Catholicism suffering the persecution of Emperor Diocletian till martyrdom. She was placed in a boat "load of tow steeped in resin and pitch and burned", but the boat did not burn and an angel took her soul in heaven and her mortal remains far, far away from the African coast up to a land in the bay of San Montano in today's Lacco Ameno on the island of Ischia then called Aenaria. A long journey in the middle of May, favored by the scirocco wind.
"A pious woman named Lucina lived in that place, and appeared out of the blue a vision of the Angel of the Lord and told her the story of the martyrdom of Restituta giving also the mandate to go to San Montano, to collect the body of the martyr and to bury it with great revence", Don Pasquale Polito writes in his book "Lacco Ameno: il paese, la protettrice, il folclore" of 1963.
Lucina did exactly what Angel had told her. She buried Restituta in the place where the Christians gathered and began to worship and spread the cult. This story has beeen passed down from generation to generation for centuries.
The festivities start on May 16th and last until May 18th. The renew the arrival of the Saint in the bay of San Montano with a performance. In those three days, the island of Ischia is beaten by this warm wind that comes from Africa.
It starts on Friday at the convent of the Friars Minor of Ischia the festival in honor of St. Anthonio of Padova.
On June 1st, the procession will take place at 18:30 by sea; the statue of the saint will be boarding at the pier of Miramare e Castello and landed in the bay of the old prison, upon return will be celebrated the Mass presided over by the provincial minister father Agostino Esposito.
St. Vito is the patron saint of Forio d'Ischia to whom are dedicated the religious festivals and celebrations which last for 4 days.
The veneration of St. Vito, has its origin in Forio and in the Middle Ages there was a temple in some region of Citara which was then transferred, for good measure because of the Saracen invasions and as a result of frequent earthquakes the island was subjected, in the elevated position of the “House of Forio”.
The cultivation of the vine and its important role in the forian economy are the basis of the legend that, in the middle of the nineteenth century, while raged the terrible late blight on the island and Forian people bleeding for shortages of harvests, a Sicialian ship, load of sulphur arrived in Forio. The Sicilians claimed to have been sent it to Forio with the task of distributing the sulphur and curing screws, by a child that pawned a ring. The imagination of the people identified in that child San Vito. It is certain that the benefits of the “cure” could be seen immediately.
Even the celebrations in honour of the Saint have old roots and, in fact, it seems that the first procession through the streets of the town, which has no memory, goes back to distant 1664. Until 1959 the St. Vito celebration, purely religious, was made in the first or second week of August, then it was suspended for the renovation of the church and was resumed in 1966. On that occasion the date changed and was fixed at 15 June each year, putting on the characteristic of “village festival” with stalls, music, and entertainment shows as still happens.
This year the festival will be held on June 13 to 17 and will comprise the following stages:
Traditional festival with a spectacular parade of boats on the sea, the burning of the castle and fireworks.
Once upon a time …….according to tradition, on July 26-- the feast day of Saint Anne, the patroness of childbirth,
expectant mothers went in procession up to the little church located on the west side of the bay of the Castle of Ischia, just facing the rising sun, under the bulk of the Tower.
Expectant mothers prayed that everything would go well, non-expectant women asked instead for a gift: fertility. The parade was mainly made up of fishermen’s boats that were decorated for this particular occasion with boughs and garlands of flowers.
Since the 30s the feast, taking on a popular folkloristic character, became the most striking feast of the island for its setting and for the unique parade of decorated rafts on the water in front of the church dedicated to the Saint.
Since then, the parade that was born out of randomness and for one’s devotion to the Saint turned into a competition in which the boats, allegorically representing episodes, stories, myths and characters related to the island of Ischia, become real theater displays. .
The parade at sea by the Rocks of Saint Anne culminates with fireworks and a spectacular fire of the Aragonese Castle. One can say with absolute conviction that it is one of the most fascinating events of the summer and of what is part of the memories of Ischia.
About two thousand years of history of ISchia is represented by figures in stringent costumes demostrating the historical significance of Ischia, through the evocation of its main protagonists.
Parade in traditional costume
The popular costume parade takes place every year on August 26 along the streets of the historical center of Ischia Ponte up to the district of St. Alessandro.
From the Aragonese Castle in Ischia Ponte to the medieval village of Sant’Alessandro situated on the heights of Ischia Porto, the parade is the most important one of the island of Ischia. It is not the recollection of a single historical event, but the representation of' the entire history of the island of Ischia, from the foundation of Pitekoussai on Mount Vico, eight centuries before Christ, to the Bourbons who so loved and valued the island.
At the heart of the Castle’s history were the Angevin and Aragonese periods, the Renaissance of Vittoria Colonna and the literary Cenacle which she held in the palace of her Castle, the Viceroy age and the eighteenth century of Carlo III (who from Ischia took his first steps to conquer the Kingdom of Naples, ruled for thirty years by the Austrians at that time).
The parade’s origins stem from the initiative of a group of residents in the village of St. Alessandro. This event constantly renews itself over the time.