The "Vapurett" in Ortona, Abruzzo

A Steamboat caught on Fire


Today is St. Sebastian’s day and in Ortona this is a particularly special date. Here, St. Sebastian is celebrated zealously with a combination of religious parades, parties, fireworks and a…less common event. Every year, on the 20th of January,  the  “Vaporetto” (“steamboat” in English, better known among locals as “Lu vapurett”),  is set alight.

The "Vapurett" in Ortona, Abruzzo

“Lu vapurett” is a bizarre mechanism, shaped like a boat, suspended in mid-air in the square of St. Thomas. The tradition requires the “Lu vapurett” to criss-cross the square without stopping. If this fails, the year will be unlucky and fishing & agriculture will prove unfruitful; if however the “Vaporetto” completes its trip the year will be a prosperous one!

“Lu vapurett” is a papier-mâché mechanism encasing firecrackers & fireworks which propel the machine along guide-ropes suspended in the air, until it bursts at the end.

This festival dates back to 1936 and every year thousands of people await to see the show with their fingers crossed to hope for good luck. After the religious ceremony in honour of St. Sebastian, people flood the square and the Mayor has the crucial task of lighting up “Lu vapuret”.  This is a crucial moment as the square is packed with people and everybody is looking up encouraging and shouting at the vaporetto to keep going.

After the show it’s time to celebrate all together at home with family and friends, or going out for dinner in local restaurants. But for a truly special occasion there’s also a special food that locals like to savour in honour of St. Sebastian, “lu puzzunet”. This plate is a culinary delight made with fish-stock, broccoli and roasted sweet peppers.

Another occasion to taste the true Italy made of awesome food, great wine but most of all friendly people!

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