98 – Formia Festa Di San Giovanni Battista

On the 24th June we were very kindly invited to lunch by Filippo’s family in Formia and to watch the procession and celebrations of the feast day of Saint John The Baptist.  San Giovanni Battista is Formia’s co-patron saint, along with Sant’ Erasmo who’s feast is celebrated on the 2nd June. The annual celebrations are normally spread over a three day period between the  23rd and 25th of June and consist of various  religious processions throughout the streets of the city. One, held on the evening of the 23rd makes its way  down to the waterfront area known as La Mola, where there is a 13thcentury cylindrical tower . This was constructed to guard various water mills in that vicinity that were used to grind grain, and from which it derives its name.  Here the priest carries out a special blessing of the local fishermen and their vessels.

On the day of our visit we met up with our friends Pauline and Filippo in the centre of Formia.

The main street of Via Vitruvio was lined with copious stalls selling sweets and confectionery, toys and balloons and there was a lively atmosphere in eager anticipation of the main procession. We began to make our way down towards the harbour to find a good position to watch the spectacle.  Proceeded by a band, the long solemn reverent procession gradually wound its way through the streets, the two statues of Sant’ Erasmo and San Giovanni, were carried aloft by some of the local men of Formia, on ornately carved and guilded platforms. Near the harbour, at the Molo Azzurra, prayers were recited and hymns of thanksgiving were offered in praise of the saints.

The procession then continued along the quayside before the statues were carefully transported onto a waiting barge.

Accompanied by a cocophany of ships hooters, horns and claxons the vessel set off on a tour around the harbour, followed by a flotilla of other colourful smaller craft. A red fire-fighting boat of the Vigili del Fuoco sprayed plumes of sea water into the air.  A large wreath of laurel leaves was then cast into the harbour in memory of those lost at sea.

The event culminated in a ear splitting display  of daytime fireworks from the far harbour wall. Huge rockets were fired into the sky, each emitting a low thud, a trail of silvery stars,  a small puff of white smoke, swiftly followed by a massive deafening detonation, like a sonic boom, accompanied by its reverberating pressure wave.  The astounding  extravaganza was seemingly never ending.  Here is a You Tube Video of the proceedings by “ReporterMarco”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2xp214FVLeA&feature=channel

We then realised we were going to be late for lunch so hurried our way back into the centre of town to our friends’ family apartment. Filippo’s  elderly mother, and his three sisters, namely Rosa, Patrizia and Pompea,  had prepared an exquisite  homemade seafood risotto, some delicious fresh prawns with a salad, followed by a selection of fresh fruit.

Pompea, Rosa and Patrizia

The family were also celebrating the birthday of Giancarlo with a bubbly toast of Prosecco and some delicious Italian pastries.

Suddenly the focus changed from wonderful fare on the table to the TV in the corner, as the Italian National Squad were playing a match in the World Cup.  As usual there was a vociferous mixture of opinions as to how good the current national side was and how they might progress in this latest match. Having performed poorly in previous matches a feeling of impending doom was prevalent.

Before long Italy went a goal behind to a chorus of moans a groans, muted swear words and of course much gesticulation towards the television.  The gestures got increasingly animated as technical transmission problems became apparent  as the picture kept breaking up on the screen,  probably due to the sheer volume of people who were trying to watch the match !!!

With the score standing at 2-1 to Slovakia the screen froze again just as it  appeared that Italy had managed to equalise, which was confirmed by the cheering and hooting from the street and surrounding apartment windows.  However the joy was short-lived because not only had the Italian goal been disallowed, but by the time the picture finally returned Slovakia had scored and the score now rested at 3-1.  Before very long  the TV transmission packed up  all together, and our friends then gathered around the radio in the kitchen to try and follow the commentary of the game.   Nine minutes from time Italy managed to score a goal,  but it was too late to save the reigning champions from being knocked out with the final score at 3-2.

“Oddio, che scema proprio !!!”


In the evening there were further celebrations in Formia with musical concerts, a funfair and yet another spectacular firework display at midnight from the harbour. Here’s another You Tube Video by “ReporterMarco”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jO_SqQyYmTw

You can read more about the interesting seaside town of Formia

at our  South Lazio Website:


All photos by me © Louise Shapcott



Tre Cancelle Farmhouse Apartments Near Sperlonga Beaches and Historic Itri, South Lazio, Italy



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