History, culture and traditions

The park does not only promote initiatives aimed at preserving cultural and environmental heritage, but also intervention strategies that give back historical memory and the close relationship between man and nature to these places, identifying sites where you can live a unique experience to combine with the classic tourist itineraries.

Photographic archive of the Vesuvius National Park

Festivals and songs of Mount Vesuvius

“Tammurriate”, “fronne 'e limone”, “canti 'a ffigliola” are some of the most important forms of oral tradition of music of Campania and the Vesuvius area.
Mount Vesuvius with its magical and threatening force is the epicentre of a territory in which these musical forms are born and expand throughout the region in the variants that are studied by ethnomusicologists and researchers. Through these forms, during religious festivals related to the cycles of the seasons, the communities meet to reconfirm their social ties.

In spite of the transformations of the last decades, these traditions, which disappeared elsewhere, are still strong and important in the Vesuvius area.
The traditional economic system based on agriculture and its cycles is now mixed with a more complex economy and with a system of cultural diffusion that leads to continuous interference and transformation. Yet the intensity with which some ritual appointments are felt and experienced are fascinating and amazing to the eye of the spectator that takes part from the outside... sometimes it’s disquieting, other times moving, but always full of suggestions.

The feasts described below are the most representative ones for their ethno-anthropological value and popularity.


Madonna dell'Arco

Madonna dell'Arco, whose festival takes place in Sant'Anastasia on Easter Monday, occupies a prominent place in the panorama of the Marian cult in Campania for the large and numerous devotional participation.
The peculiarity and popularity of the festival comes from those who are the protagonists in all respects: the fujenti (those who run). They are organized into associations and come to the sanctuary in groups (paranze) from the whole Neapolitan province, dressed in their typical white uniform with blue and red bands, carrying toselli, characteristic votive statues of wood and papier-mâché.
The music of the festival is made of band marches and tammurriate.
It’s worth mentioning the numerous votive boards collected in the museum of the sanctuary, which connote the strong miraculous context of the cult.


I Four Altars

The Four Altars festival is the most important event of Torre del Greco. It takes place in June eight days after Corpus Domini and celebrates the “baronial redemption” of the Vesuvius town in 1699.

The fundamental moment of the festival is the preparation of the altars, made by painters, sculptors, architects, who are four and stay in four squares of the city: largo del Carmine, largo San Giuseppe, Marina della città and piazza Santa Croce. The altars represent sacred themes (“mysteries”), the “carpets”, which complete them, are made with sawdust and powder colours and form the rich set design. The festival lasts three days, is animated by the parade of the sacred chariot, by light music shows and tammurriate and ends with the traditional fireworks at sea.


The Lantern festival

The Lantern festival takes place every four years at the beginning of August. It comes from the cult of Madonna della Neve, but it has much more ancient origins that can be traced back to the fertility rites that celebrated the end of summer. It takes place in the walled village of Casamale di Somma Vesuviana, whose alleys are lit by thousands of oil lamps arranged on wooden frames (domes) of different geometric shape and degrading size with a mirror that at the bottom multiplies its arrangement.

The entire village is then embellished with bowers of branches, ferns, coloured paper, pumpkins that are emptied and illuminated from the inside by a lamp and tableaux vivant of country life. The Lantern Festival takes place without music. The only musical moment is the one that accompanies the procession of Santa Maria della Neve on the evening of the 5th August, when a song, sung by a chorus of women only coming from the balconies and terraces, announces the passage of St. Mary.

Within the Vesuvius area, Somma Vesuviana is undoubtedly one of the most important centres due to the cult of Madonna di Castello, which derives from the much older one of the “fire mountain”.
The festival is dedicated to Madonna del Castello and takes place from Easter Saturday (Saturday of the fires) to the 3rd May (three of the Cross) around the homonymous Sanctuary built in the late 1400s and located where a Norman castle stood.

On the day when the festival begins, great night bonfires are lit on the sides of the mountain and around the sanctuary, giving the impression of the flowing lava, almost as if to exorcise the fear. In the following days, there are continuous pilgrimages from neighbouring villages, but the protagonists of the festival are undoubtedly the different paranze (Gnundo, del Ciglio, etc.) who spend the day preparing banquets, bonfires and pay homage to Madonna Pacchiana with a rich repertoire of traditional songs and dances (fronne, canti a ffigliola, tammurriate). On the last day of the festival, the preparation of the “perch” takes place, a branch of chestnut decorated with flowers, fruits and foods that is offered to one’s lady singing canti a ffigliola.


St. Michael Archangel

St. Michael Archangel is the patron saint of the city of Ottaviano and the festival held in the early days of May is dedicated to him. The 8th May is the most important day of the festival; it begins at dawn with the so-called diana, i.e. a long series of fireworks on the ground which, starting from the different districts, lead to St. Michael’s Church, while the population (adults and children) follows. After diana, the mass is celebrated, followed by a procession that is accompanied by musical bands.

The highlight of the day is the “Flight of the angels”: a child and a girl dressed as angels with wings and helmets are suspended at the top with a rope system operated by pulleys (carruocciolo) and, moving over the audience, they sing a very ancient hymn to the Archangel accompanied by the band. The flight is repeated four times in the main squares of the historic centre. On the 10th May the “Palio of Donkeys” takes place, a traditional cattle fair, which ends with the donkey race and the final show of fireworks under Mount Somma. The celebrations of the patron saint are accompanied by concerts of classical music, bands and light music.