Brief History of Festa Italia / Santa Rosalia Festival
A Brief History of Festa Italia / Santa Rosalia Festival
by Robert Enea 2000
First celebrated in Monterey in 1933 when a statue of Santa Rosalia was donated to the San Carlos Cathedral, the Festival honored Santa Rosalia, the patron saint of Sicilian fishermen. A much larger than the original version of the Santa Rosalia Festival is celebrated each year in Palermo, Sicily. Saint Rosalia was born Rosalia Sinibaldi in Palermo in 1134. Born into a wealthy, royal family, she became Count Dameselle to Queen Margherita di Navarro in 1850. At age 22, she left the royal palace and chose instead a life of prayer, penance and contemplation. She lived as a hermit in a mountain cave until her death in 1166.
The Festival has preserved some rich Sicilian traditions and in 2000 it celebrated the 64th anniversary of the event in Monterey. Now known as Festa Italia, this three-day event combines the celebration of two significant events from the past: a celebration for a successful harvest and the blessing of the fishing fleet. Festa Italia is attended by thousands of locals and visitors who enjoy Italian food, music, singing and dancing. A Bocce Ball tournament, a public out door mass, a procession through the center of Monterey to the Custom House Plaza and Fisherman's Wharf and the honoring of fishermen and their boats all add to the festive activities. Festa Italia has become a very popular Festival and is one of the oldest celebrated continuous events in California.
Upper left Festa Italia parade enters the plaza, upper right the Festa Italia is well underway the three day event brings in thousands of visitors to Monterey, photographs courtesy of Mike Ventimiglia, lower pictures of the Santa Rosalia Parade courtesy of Monterey Public Library Historic Room, photographs by William L. Morgan.