Secrets Naples

The Ancient Tradition of the Piegrotta Festival

The Legend of "Madonna di Piedigrotta"

Santa Maria of Piedigrotta Church stands today as the beating heart of Marian worship in Naples. The famous and picturesque "Festa di Piedigrotta," held on the night between September 7th and 8th, celebrates the Nativity of the Virgin Mary. This event, steeped in popular tradition, is distinguished by the extraordinary procession of the wooden statue of Madonna di Piedigrotta, which, every fifty years, leaves the Basilica to traverse the city streets. A gesture filled with affection and a request for intercession to bless the city of Naples.
In 2000, during the Jubilee year, the extraordinary procession of the Madonna's statue took on exceptional dimensions. The Madonna was brought to the church of San Francesco di Paola in Piazza Plebiscito, then returned in procession to the Basilica. A section of the route, from Santa Lucia to Mergellina, was completed on a boat, further symbolizing the veneration that the maritime community holds for the Madonna.
The historical roots of the church date back to 1353 when, in its place, a small grotto housed a votive niche containing the wooden statue of the Madonna with the infant Jesus. Today, the effigy is preserved inside the church, and women seeking husbands or expecting mothers honor her with votive offerings shaped like a little shoe, known as "scarpuncielo d'a Maronna."
This unique form of devotion is tied to an ancient legend. One stormy night, Brother Bernardino, the guardian of the grotto, noticed with dismay that the statue had disappeared. Fearing theft, he called the abbot. However, the Madonna returned from the beach, confessing that she had been invoked by sailors in danger and had removed a little shoe, leaving it on the shore. The friar found the lost shoe, collected the sand inside it in two vials still preserved in the sanctuary, and replaced the footwear. Symbolically bringing the "scarpunciello" to Madonna di Piedigrotta today represents a gentle request for grace or intercession. Many mariners still visit the sanctuary to commemorate the miracle that occurred on that stormy night, testifying to the deep connection between the maritime community and the revered Madonna di Piedigrotta.

The Grand Celebration of Piedigrotta

The Festa di Piedigrotta is a significant folk celebration held in Naples, Italy. With ancient origins rooted in religious devotion, over time, it has transformed into a vibrant and colorful event featuring music, dance, and gastronomy.
The festival takes its name from the Piedigrotta Grotto, located near Mergellina, a captivating area of Naples. According to tradition, in 1350, a struggling fisherman found an image of the Madonna in the grotto, guiding him to safety and initiating Marian worship in that place. The Madonna di Piedigrotta has since become the patroness of Naples.

The celebration of Festa di Piedigrotta typically takes place every September, involving a series of cultural and religious events that animate the city. Among its highlights are religious processions, where the effigy of the Madonna di Piedigrotta is paraded through the streets of Naples with great community participation.
Traditional Neapolitan music and dance, including the lively tarantella, are central to the festivities. Popular Neapolitan songs celebrating the city's culture and traditions can be heard, accompanied by pyrotechnic displays and street performances, creating a kaleidoscope of sounds and colors.
Another essential aspect of Festa di Piedigrotta is its gastronomy. The streets are filled with stalls offering local specialties, including pizza, sfogliatella, taralli, and other traditional Neapolitan dishes. The festival creates a lively and festive atmosphere, attracting both residents and tourists eager to immerse themselves in Neapolitan culture.

Festa di Piedigrotta is a captivating event that blends religious devotion with popular joy, folklore, and tradition, offering a unique opportunity to experience the cultural richness and vibrancy of the city of Naples.

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Chiesa di S.Maria di Piedigrotta - Piazza Piedigrotta, 80122 Napoli