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Not really – it’s simply the culmination of three days of pyrotechnic excess at the hands of Rapallo’s Sestieri, all in honor of the Madonna of Montallegro, patron saint of our city.  (The ‘sestieri’ are the six districts of the town – they have no administrative function, but rather are historic and traditional divisions, and serve to provide lively rivalry in the fireworks arena.)

It began at 8 a.m. on Friday morning (July 1) with a half hour of ka-booms provided by all the Sestieri  in honor of the Madonna.  Subsequent fireworks took place at 10:15 p.m. with another Salute to the Madonna (these are a great many very loud explosions, without the fanciful colors and light of fireworks) and at 10:30 p.m. two separate fireworks displays, each provided by one of the Sestieri.

I never thought much of daytime firework shows, but we happened to be in town at mid-day on Saturday when there was a short ‘Sparata del Panegirico”, that is, ‘Praise with Noise.’  The show turned out to be rather pretty and amusing:

In addition to colorful smoke, the onshore breeze showered us all with bits of cardboard debris, flag-bearing soccer balls and parachutes delivering who-knows-what:

That evening there was another mortar Salute to the Madonna followed by another two fireworks shows, again each the work of two other of the sestieri.

Sunday, the final day of the Festa, gave us a Salute at 10 p.m. followed by the famous Procession of the crosses and the icon from Montallegro. Sadly we arrived too late to see the Procession this year, but here are a few photos from 2009:

Just a few of the many crosses on parade

A very strong man, one of the cross-bearers

The famous icon, barely visible amidst all the silver

Change of porter

The Archbishop

That year’s crop of confirmands

At 10:15 or thereabouts there was another Sparata and short fireworks with the annual Burning of the Castello which you’ve seen in the first photo above.  After an interminable wait there was a lengthy series of Saluti alla Madonna issuing from various public parks around the city, all very loud and exciting.  I have not a doubt in the world that the Madonna heard them and came to watch the last two of the annual fireworks shows that followed.

There are many other activities associated with the annual ‘Solenni Festeggiamenti in Onore di N.S. di Montallegro, Patrona di Rapallo e del Suo Antico Capitaneato,’ principally masses and musical offerings.  It’s a full three days – and it happens every year.  It’s proximity to the 4th of July is a happy coincidence for Americans like us… fireworks and the 4th go together like, well,  hotdogs and beer.  Happy Festa della Madonna!  Happy Fourth of July!