Ustica Folklore and Festivals
Ustica has not forgotten and abandoned its ancient traditions, and this can be seen from the religious festivals, festivals and folklore still present throughout the year. An opportunity to spend a different holiday.
Christmas in Ustica
The Christmas period in Ustica is lived in a family atmosphere that involves the whole community. The mother church of Ustica di San Ferdinando Re, which dominates the main street, is the recreational hub of the Christmas holidays. The main stage of organized activities for the community and for the little ones. Performances, not to be missed the children’s one, and playful encounters are curtains of daily life that you can attend to get to know the spirit of the island in depth. The large Christmas tree stands on the square in front of it. The nativity scene set up in the crypt is worth a visit, an architectural jewel built between the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries with the altar, vaults and frescoes. It is advisable to arrive on the island a few days before December 25 to fully appreciate the magic of these holidays with the ancient tradition of the Christmas novena. Nine days before the birth of the Child Jesus, the people of Ustica get up at dawn and in procession, accompanied by the sound of the guitar, walk through the alleys of the town singing Christmas songs. A deeply felt ritual, participated by the elderly and young, which recreates a storybook atmosphere, which warms the heart as the night gives way to the sun. At the end of the novena it is customary to gather in the home of a family who opens the doors to offer the singers and their followers a refreshing breakfast with hot milk, coffee, homemade cakes and biscuits, and then morning mass. After Mass, according to tradition, the “pane cunzato” was prepared with crushed tomatoes, salt, pepper and oregano.
The cassatedde usticesi are the gastronomic symbol of Christmas. All the houses smell of this sweet in the period leading up to the party. The preparation involves all members of the family and the neighborhood. The holders of this knowledge are the elderly. The dessert is made of shortcrust pastry mixed with a citrus infusion. The filling includes raisins, citrus peel, dried fruit, chocolate and figs. They can be purchased in the laboratory of Maria Cristina, a tireless supporter of the gastronomic memory of Usticese, or in bakeries. Another specialty are nataline with lentil flour and spicchiteddo, another typical dessert of this period prepared with mulled wine, a pinch of pepper and almond. Religious appointments are classic, on the eve at 11.00 pm to witness the birth of Jesus, mass at 11.00 on Christmas day. Lucullian lunches for the whole period, games and evenings with the family, up to the New Year and finally the Befana with the distribution of gifts to children. For a Christmas out of the ordinary, there is a small island ready to welcome you, where you can also rediscover that sense of community, of the union that this period reminds everyone to cultivate or strengthen.
San Giuseppe in Ustica
On March 19th St. Joseph is celebrated who, in popular tradition, was the protector of the poor, carpenters and girls, and father of Providence. This festival, which has Sicilian origins, spread throughout Italy and became a national holiday. The celebrations were not the same in every town and city, but they varied according to tradition. In Ustica the Feast of St. Joseph is preceded by the novena (around 18.00) with the Holy Mass, accompanied by prayers and songs.
On St. Joseph’s day, a table in the shape of a “U” is laid out, on which dishes containing 19 typical Usticesi dishes are placed, including: sweet and sour fish, capers and olives, artichokes, pasta with chickpeas, and pasta with wild fennel, fried ope (boghe), omelette with asparagus, boiled cod and pancakes, thistles in batter, etc … On the table there was no shortage of traditional Ustica sweets: the gigi, the sphinxes of S. Giuseppe stuffed with ricotta, unstuffed sphinxes, cassatelle, Ustica mustard etc …, bread made in different shapes, water and wine.
The first person who took care of organizing the table of St. Joseph was, out of devotion, Mrs. Dorina Maggiore, who set the table with a certain style and at her own expense and subsequently, with the contribution of the whole town, Mrs. Antonina Maglio.
At 11 am the Holy Mass is celebrated and a short procession follows with the traditional “knock” and the request for accommodation. At the head of the procession there is the Holy family, usually young boys and a child for the Infant Jesus. The procession proceeds through the town center and stopped in front of some houses. St. Joseph knocks on the door with the stick he carried with him and when the owners open he asks: “Is there room for three poor pilgrims”? from the house they reply: “un cè locu pi Vui” (there is no place for you) and close the door, annoyed. The procession continues and after a while it stops in front of another house, where exactly the same scene is repeated as before. After 2-3 refusals of accommodation, the Holy Family followed by numerous faithful, family members and onlookers, stops in front of the side entrance of the church. St. Joseph knocks twice on the door, but no one opens. On the third attempt, the door is opened and the person looking out asks: “who are you”? Saint Joseph replies: “we are Jesus, Joseph and Mary”; at this point whoever opened the door says: “Welcome, everybody come to my house”. The Holy Family takes place at the table; the Bambinello sits in the center and sideways St. Joseph and Mary and, after the thanksgiving prayer, they begin to eat. Since food was prepared in abundance, people, who had less availability or by tradition, were given pasta and chickpeas in bowls and bread and then a taste of what was left to take home.
We owe to Father Carmelo the resumption of this feast after a pause of a few years, and to the collaboration of Vito Zanca and Giovanni Favaloro, and more recently to Mrs. Margherita Di Lorenzo and Maria Cristina Natale.
Holy Easter in Ustica
The Easter triduum is a very heartfelt period in Ustica, and has always been represented, by tradition, with sacred events and manifestations that are repeated every year. But it starts with Palm Sunday, with the traditional procession through the town to Ecce Homo where the palm trees and olive branches will be blessed, to continue to the church for Holy Mass.
The triduum begins with Holy Thursday, at 9.00 pm in the church, the parish priest, in the representation of Christ, performs the washing of the feet of the 12 apostles chosen for the entire Easter period. At the end of the mass, the apostles are given a loaf of bread, lettuce and oranges, in memory of the last supper of Jesus Christ and the apostles.
Good Friday begins in the morning at 10.00 with the Via Crucis and the ascent of Christ to Calvary. Periodically the boys represent the Passion of Christ, otherwise it will be the statue of Christ that will be carried in procession. At about 4.00 pm the Immaculate Conception is taken to Calvary to witness the death and descent of Christ from the Cross. Followed by the procession to the church and the adoration of the Cross until late at night. Then the church is closed and prepared for Easter and reopens at 11.00 pm on Saturday with the beginning of the eve. After the prayers and songs follows the resurrection of Christ, with the singing of the Glory and the descent of a large cloth that reveals the Risen Christ.
On Easter Sunday there is perhaps the most exciting event of the triduum, namely the Encounter. The Immaculate Madonna, still wearing the purple veil as a sign of mourning, descends from the stairs to the right of the church, the Risen Christ instead from the stairs to the left of the church, both vare enter the narrow streets of the town until reaching the two streets opposite that leads to the square, just under the stage in front of the church.
First the two flag bearers descend, one the flag of the Madonna whose launch is carried by tradition by representatives of the peasants, while the other carries the flag of the Risen Christ whose launch is carried by representatives of the fishermen. After the greeting of the flags the two vare begin to descend, at first slowly, but as soon as they are about to arrive in the square they begin to increase the pace until they run, as if the Madonna and Christ recognized each other, and to make a turn in the square and to stand side by side while the purple veil of the Madonna slips down revealing the happiness of the Mother of Christ. A quick stop to decorate the Madonna with the 12-star crown and then the procession through the town and finally the Holy Mass.
Thus ends the religious part of the Easter period which ends instead with the “Pasquone” our Easter Monday, traditionally spent in the countryside, houses or outdoors, in the company of friends and family to eat grilled meat, sausage or fish, accompanied by salads, grilled vegetables, grilled artichokes and traditional desserts, all washed down with good wine. Surely these holidays are an excellent opportunity for a first vacation after the long winter.
Long weekend of April 25th and May 1st
The bridges of April 25th and May 1st are a wonderful opportunity to spend a carefree weekend in Ustica, in the open air, perhaps taking advantage of the good weather that can usually be found at that time. Traditional outings with barbecues and lots of fun, and maybe even the first swim of the year waiting for the imminent summer.
TRADITION & FOLKLORE
Ustica Our Fishermen’s Lady Feast
On the last Sunday of May, the feast of the Madonna dei Pescatori (Stella Maris) takes place, a marine procession with the statue of the Madonna hoisted on a boat and, together with the entire navy, accompanied through the circumnavigation of the island. Nine days before, the Madonna who is located on the belvedere garden above the port is taken to the church for the traditional novena. The feast day begins with the procession of the Madonna which from the mother church reaches the port of Cala S. Maria followed by the band. The faithful with the Madonna get on the fishing boats together with the village band to take a tour of the island at sunset with many boats of all sizes following. Upon returning, mass is celebrated, followed by a large pan frying fish that is offered to all participants along with fruit and wine. The evening ends with music, dances and group games. Very suggestive festival because it takes place in the small port of Ustica.
Ustica San Bartolo Patronal Feast
The Feast of San Bartolomeo di Ustica always takes place on August 24, a perfect period that also embraces the needs of tourists, who go there as well as to attend the main religious festival that not only intends to promote the memory of San Bartolomeo apostolo , but also to propose the most evocative traditions of the area, including folklore, customs and delicious typical products, and the scenic beauty of Ustica and the fascinating places of interest.
The origins of the Feast of San Bartolomeo date back to 1763, shortly after its first Sicilian settlers, departed from Lipari, reached the island of Ustica, choosing San Bartolomeo as their patron saint and also establishing the annual date of the celebrations, in addition to main recurrences to be repeated in the following centuries.
The main places where the activities of the Feast of San Bartolomeo take place are strictly linked to the center of the village, but also to the scenic sea of Ustica, and mainly to Cala Santa Maria (port). The religious festival begins with the novena in the church where the statue of the saint has been removed from its niche and placed on the vara. The main event of the Feast of San Bartolomeo in Ustica is, after the Holy Mass, the traditional religious procession that sees the passage of the Simulacrum of San Bartolomeo through the city streets and along the coast of Ustica, with various stops, songs and choreographic races of the launch of the saint and the first fireworks upon arrival at the church.
The entertainment and leisure events related to the festival begin on the eve with musical performances, concerts, performances and live music. On the morning of the festival and traditional Alborata, 10 single shots of fireworks are fired to start the party. In the afternoon, before the religious services, you can watch water games in the port, and traditional games in the square. For some years these customs have been a little neglected.
On the evening of the party, music in the square until the stroke of midnight, the time of the start of the famous fireworks of Ustica in the fantastic natural setting of the port and the Cove, thanks to the organization of the Ustica town hall and the Ustica Island Protected Marine Area, you will experience a show not to be missed at all costs. At the end of the fires, disco music in the square until late at night. In short, the feast of San Bartolomeo represents the summit of the Ustica summer, a mix of traditions, religiosity and fun for a splendid holiday in Ustica.
Ustica Our Lady of the Cross Feast
The feast of the Madonna della Croce takes place on the first Sunday of September, and takes place in the small church of the Passo della Madonna in Contrada Tramontana. The statue of the Madonna is taken from the church and brought to the mother church nine days before for the classic novena. In the early afternoon of the festival, the tour around the island and the village of the Madonna on a festively decorated Ape motorbike and many young people on motorcycles following it is now traditional. Around 5.00 pm the procession starts from the church, and after having crossed the village, it is about to travel the whole Tramontana district, with several stops in which large bonfires are lit in honor of the Madonna, while songs and prayers are sung. Once you get to the little church of the Passo della Madonna, the mass is held in the open space in front. At the end of the mass, preparations for the country feasts begin immediately with grills, fruit, wine and lots of music, dances and games.
Ustica San Bartolicchio Feast
San Bartolicchio is the rural version of the celebrations for the patron saint of Ustica. The festival involves the whole island and is an important event for lovers of popular festivals and folklore. The anniversary is celebrated on the second Sunday of September each year, in the delightful church decorated with De Simone ceramics in front of the whirlpool in the locality of Oliastrello. Nine days before, a characteristic novena begins which takes place at 9.00 pm with traditional songs and prayers. The district is filled with lights, sounds and colors, and is an opportunity for the inhabitants of Ustica to gather with friends and family in the country houses to eat and have fun. On Saturday we meet in the whirlpool to dine with good pasta, fruit and wine, in the meantime we dance and play until late at night. Sunday, in the early afternoon, was the occasion for many outdoor games such as tug-of-war, sack race and other fun typical and folkloristic rural activities among which the traditional donkey race stands out, suggestive and fun, above all for children. In recent years everything has been a bit abandoned for organizational reasons. At 18.00 the procession begins along the street of the Oliastrello district and at the end the holy mass inside the whirlpool. The celebrations continue during the evening with grilled meat and sausage, fruit, wine, music and final tombolone with many prizes, and at midnight fireworks, to stay cheerful and in good company.
The studios are rented with a short tourist lease without the provision of personal services (Article 4 of Legislative Decree 50 \ 2017).