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Festa di Sant’Oronzo

Once a year between August 24th and August 26th, the city of Lecce celebrates la festa di Sant’Oronzo, the feast of the city’s founding Saint. This celebration literally shuts the city down, and allows its members, and any tourists that get caught up in the mix, to enjoy the festivities, including music, food and dozens of booths set up in the historic center.
During the months prior to the festa, strapping local men can be seen assembling huge light sculptures throughout the streets, stringing them down the main drags where everyone takes their passeggiata, or stroll, in the early evening hours. These lights are then used to illuminate the city and create a whimsical atmosphere, especially in Piazza Sant’Oronzo where most of the concerts take place.
Marco and I decided to spend our Saturday night wandering the streets and entertaining ourselves with sweets and live music on the streets, while we perused the vendors that sold everything from brooms to trinkets from Africa. We first bought a bright pink cotton candy from a vendor in Piazza Sant’Oronzo, we then made our way to one of the many crepe booths stationed near the square and picked up one of those as well. Marco’s love for all things spicy brought us to a booth that sold all kinds of sweets, (called caramelle), as well as crunchy snack items, from which we chose the one sprinkled with red pepper flakes.
We made our rounds at each of the booths, squeezing between the immense crowds of people, stopping to watch old Italian men with calloused hands, work warmed caramel, full of almonds, into bite sized shapes. Thankfully Marco and I share a passion for sweets, so we spent most of our time filling ourselves on licorice flavored candies and gummy worms, watching numerous demonstrations on useful household products.
When the crowds became too much we made our way back to Piazza Sant’Oronzo, and found a spot on a bench where we could relax and watch the parade march past, it was full of holy people chanting, all in honor of Sant’Oronzo. These types of festivals were once held at cities throughout all of southern Italy as each città has been given its own Saint, therefore each has its own Saint’s day. Most of the festivals were similar to Lecce’s, with the lights, food and music. I was fortunate enough to be crammed into Marco’s Fiat on trips to these kinds of feste. Events where bands would play and caramelle would always finish off the night.