The “Festa a Mare agli Scogli di Sant’Anna”, with its magical, brightly coloured boats
The “Festa a Mare agli Scogli di Sant’Anna” (Sea Festival at the Rocks of Sant’Anna) is one of the most eagerly awaited events on Ischia’s summer calendar. This patron saint’s feast day is celebrated on 26 July in Ischia Ponte with a spectacular evening procession of the boats of Sant'Anna, featuring large rafts decorated with magnificent scenery.
On the evening of the celebration, the rafts become small floating theatres that stage a lively spectacle of dance and figures in costume. The procession is highly evocative and unfolds beneath the Aragonese Castle, before the admiring gazes of the spectators perching on the rocks and on boats anchored in Cartaromana. After the procession of boats, the party continues with the re-enactment of the fire at the Aragonese Castle, when the castle was attacked by pirates many years ago. Using skilful effects created with red lights and artificial smoke, the Castle seems to slowly catch fire while a soundtrack by Blue Dolphin accompanies the display.
The evening ends with a firework finale. The fireworks of Sant’Anna are very popular, lighting up the Castle and the whole of Cartaromana Bay in a thousand different colours and glittering shapes. The deafening applause of the public proves just how popular the grand finale is.
Sant’Anna has not always been such a grandiose event. It started out as a more intimate, devotional ritual. In the old days, women expecting a child made a maritime pilgrimage to the little church of Sant’Anna, on the shores of Cartaromana, on 26 July.
Their little boats were decorated with festoons, cockades and small lanterns. In the 1930s, someone came up with the idea of picking the best-decorated boat. This led to the development of the procession of Sant’Anna that attracts thousands of tourists from all over Europe to Ischia today.