Festivals of Vieste

Vieste has two patron saints of the town, St Mary of Merino and St George and they are both remembered with a festival each year.

St Mary of Merino

The story of St Mary began centuries ago. On the 9th of May, following a large storm, a wooden statue of The Lady washed ashore on the beach of Merino. The statue was found by two men , one was from Peschici and the other from Vieste. An argument soon broke out about who owned the statue. As both desperately wanted it, a competition was held to decide who would keep statue. The statue was placed on a cart pulled by oxens. The agreement was, which ever town the oxens pulled the cart to, would win the statue. The cart of course arrived at Vieste and St Mary of Merino has been worshipped ever since. On the 9th of May every year a local procession walks to the sanctuary of Merino (about 6kms from Vieste) carrying the statue. It gets passed from shoulder to shoulder as the locals sing religious songs. At the sanctuary there is a big picnic where the day is celebrated with food and wine. Some brave souls will take a dip in the sea to mark the beginning of the swimming season. From all reports the water is still icy cold. Once evening arrives everyone slowly heads back to town. The statue returns at midnight and a fireworks display ends the St Mary of Merino celebrations.

St George the Matryr

Along time ago in the town, a group of children used to play near the church of St Maria delle Grazie. One particular boy in the group would always lose at the games they played. In fact he lost so often that the other children would tease and taunt him. One day he was so upset he went inside the church and prayed in front of the St George the Martyr statue. In his prayers he promised an omelete to the saint if he could help him win just one game. The next day he played with the children and won. True to his promise he returned to the church with an omelete and from that day on (23rd April) an omelete festival is held on the hill behind the church.