St. Sebastian’s day –  January 20th – is a special date in Ortona. Here, St. Sebastian is celebrated zealously  with religious parades, parties, fireworks and an uncommon event. Every year on January 20th in the main square the popular “Vaporetto” – steamboat in English –  or better known among locals as “Lu vapurett”  is lighted up.

The "Vapurett" in Ortona, Abruzzo

“Lu vapurett” is a bizarre mechanism with al boat shape that is suspended in the mid-air in St. Thomas square. The tradition wants that “Lu vapurett” have to cross and go back over the square without stops. If not so, the year will be unlucky and fishing and agriculture activities will be poor, instead, if the “Vaporetto” complete its trip it will be a prosperous year!

“Lu vapuret” is a papier-mache mechanism enriched with firecrackers and fireworks which let the machine to move along the rope suspended in the air and burst 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 overflow into the square and the Major has the crucial task of lighting up “Lu vapuret”. This moment is suggestive because the square is packed with people and everybody is looking up shouting and encouraging “Lu vapurett” of keep going.

After the show is time to celebrate all together at home with family and friends or going out for dinner in local restaurants. But for a special day 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 stock-fish, broccoli and roasted sweet peppers.