Wee Babes in Sicily

July 10, 2012

It’s taken me days to recover from the hyperbolic Festa di San Paolo in Palazzolo Acreide.

Sicily: Land of Immoderation.

The day was pizza-oven hot. You needed shorts, a cold beer, and your back against a cool blue wall as you waited for Saint Paul to parade out of the church amid pyrotechnics so intense it felt like the town was under bombardment.

Sicilian Men Against a Blue Wall, copyright Jann Huizenga

My American Man wore shorts, too.ย (Folks, this is totally beside the point, but do you know how hard it has been to coax him out of his Paul Bunyon duds and into Italian-made clothes? And yet: he now wears embroidered floral shirts and carries lavender blessed by a priest.)

While the men stayed cool with beer,ย the women fanned themselves (Sicily’s Spanish heritage on full display).

Sicilian Woman with a Fan, copyright Jann Huizenga

The animals have been blessed by the priest…

Animals Blessed at Festa di San Paolo in Palazzolo Acreide, copyright Jann Huizenga

though they don’t look too happy about it.

Cow at Festa di San Paolo in Palazzolo Acreide, copyright Jann Huizenga

Waiting, waiting…

Come on. Hurry up, Saint Paul!!! We’re dying out here.

Men Wait for San Paolo to parade by in Palazzolo Acreide, copyright Jann Huizenga

Waiting for San Paolo to Parade By in Palazzolo Acreide, copyright Jann Huizenga

OK, the explosives are just about rigged up–all over the church, thousands of them.

Rigging up Fireworks for Festa di San Paolo, Palazzolo, copyright Jann Huizenga

Notices have been posted everywhere that it’s your own damn fault if you get blown to bits.

Sweet Jesus. What’s in store?

You run as far away from the piazza as you can. The locals have warned you that “there will be no air” there.

Then all hell breaks loose.

Even blocks away from the epicenter, kids have to plug their ears.

Festa di San Paolo, copyright Jann  Huizenga

And run for cover.

Impossible. Completely impossible!

Imagine a war zone. Shock and Awe. Combine that with an earthquake and Etna exploding. That’s what it feels like.

Festa di San Paolo, copyright Jann Huizenga

Now here he comes, the hero of the day. Paparazzi move like Ferraris through the baked streets.

Paparazzi in at Festa di San Paolo in Palazzolo Acreide, copyright Jann Huizenga

ย More heroes below. (And we think we’re cooking?)

Festa di San Paolo in Palazzolo Acreide, copyright Jann Huizenga

Wee babes, all pink and dimpled, barely out of the womb, are passed up in the hot sun to be blessed by San Paolo.

Festa di San Paolo in Palazzolo Acreide, copyright Jann Huizenga

And then it’s home for siesta.


The Feast of San Paolo takes place in Palazzolo Acreide every year on June 27-29. The same town hosts the Feast of San Sebastiano in August (dates vary). Both festas are amazing, though I prefer the latter because the piazza where it is held is roomier so you get a better view even when you’re far away. Don’t miss the morning parade that winds all over town to collect bread.


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36 comments to Wee Babes in Sicily

  • Jann, through this pictorial representation, I feel like I too was part of the festivities! These photos are wonderful! My hat comes off to the men carrying the image of San Paolo. I can’t imagine having the mental or physical strength to do that in such heat! I love the shot of the little baby being blessed! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • My eyes are dazzled, my ears are ringing, and my dress is clinging to my sweat-soaked back just from looking at the pictures!

  • catherine billups

    wonderful photos.

  • Good Morning Jann

    A quick hello. I am your new follower, found you through Carla who referenced you today.

    I am thrilled to find you and look forward to your visit to my blog

    I cannot wait to read previous posts.

    Helen xx

    • Jann

      Helen–Welcome! Benvenuta! I love your prize-winning painting–such a beautiful blog you have!

  • Jann great pics I love an Italian festa so much passion involved you are so right Western society is losing this, those guys in the first pic are looking very cool for “pizza oven” hot day! Gorgeous…
    I have written about your fabulous blog on my post today and added you into my Italian blogroll so much to read here and love your renovating series, one day soon we hope to be tackling our ramshackle house in Puglia. here is the link to my post http://carlacoulson.com/lovely-links-and-breathtaking-portraits/
    Carla x

    • Jann

      Carla, thank you so much for the publicity. Your blog is a gold mine for photographers, and of special interest to those going to Paris! I hope we’ll soon be able to follow your Puglia adventure, too.

  • sandee wheeler

    Embroidered floral shirt…….lavender in his hand……bermuda shorts…..not to mention, the man purse!…..a true transformation!

  • John Schinina

    Ciao Jann, Your last comment to Janine says it all. Grazie

  • vicki

    Your description sounded hurried and hot, like get this over!!! Loved it.
    Tell me, how do they get so many men in Church not to mention involved with events. Doesn’t happen here. That first guy in the first shot, doesn’t have a Saintly smile on his face. What were his thoughts, never mind, I think I know.

    • Jann

      Vicki–the patron saint of one’s town is very close to one’s core identity here, so the entire town is completely engaged…men, women, and children. (That doesn’t mean that they necessarily go to mass on Sunday, though…)

  • Traditions are so rich, no? Thank you for sharing. It’s wonderful to be a small part of Sicily.

    • Jann

      It’s so fantastic how Sicilians hold onto their traditions, Rosann… still, modernity encroaches, which always makes me sad.

  • Ian Henry

    Hi jan hope you are well, wow your posts are fantastic I love them! from a very very wet England. We are back on on 12/7 so if you are about would love to meet.
    Keep up the amaizing work.

    • Jann

      Thank you Ian! Much appreciated. The worst of the heat wave should be about over when you arrive. Let me know when you’re going to get out my way. (I’m car-less at the moment.)


  • **The day was pizza-oven hot.**

    Great description, Jann! I like.

    I love love love your posts…So much, that I hate for them to end.

    That POOR cow. Doesn’t he know he was Blessed?! Perhaps he wants to be blessed with some COOL air.

    Xxx Kisses from Minnesota.

    • Jann

      Thank you, Kim! I hope you’re staying cool in Minnesota–maybe you’re spending your days swimming in your luscious lakes?? xxxxxx

  • Fabulous!! although I don’t think I would pass my newborn into such bedlam! x

    • Jann

      Thanks, Lisa. I agree with you about the newborn! What an awesome responsibility that man has…

  • Charlie

    The 3 guys leaning up against the wall in the first photo could be Italian-Americans in Brooklyn…

  • The men lifting San Paolo and the man in the hat with the Charolais calf…….oh and not to mention the guys reclining against the blue wall ๐Ÿ™‚ …I LOVE THEM! Fantastic photos! Can’t wait to see both festivals in person some day! Grazie, Jann (we leave tomorrow, a presto!)

    • Jann

      Diana, how smart you are! You know the kind of calf that is??????
      Buon viaggio!!! A prestissimo!!

  • Sam

    That last photo of the guy lifting the baby – how ironic that he himself has such a baby face!

  • So you’re suffering with heat, too, huh? Sorry to hear it. Thanks for getting out and snapping these photos so we can experience this — wish I could have had my Sheltie blessed, but there are few churches here that do that. Sigh!

  • Feeling the call of my Sicilian forefathers and mothers Jann…. It doesn’t get much crazier with a straight face does it? I just love this sort of thing. Grazie grazie grazie!! Jxx

    • Jann

      Yes, Janine–So much passion has gone out of life in so-called modern Western countries, but Sicily’s still got it. Which is why I love her!

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