The hot air balloons of Santa Candida are one of the most beautiful festivals in the Mediterranean attracting fans and tourists from all over the world for the thrills that it leaves in the hearts of people of all ages.
In 2011 the festival of Santa Candida was awarded by the Minister of Tourism with the recognition of “Traditional Heritage of Italy” for its ability to keep alive the folklore of its area, renewing traditional happenings, adapting them to the present times and transforming them into tourist attractors.
If you have never been to Ventotene, the best time is the weekend before the Festival of Santa Candida, patron saint of the small island. This is an event that combines religious traditions and unique artistic activities. The processions and songs of the local band fill the streets while the sky is filled with coloured paper balloons.
Tourist attraction and now icons of Ventotene, the balloons (called “O pallon/pallò”) meaning ‘of paper’ have their origins in the ‘votive worship’ to the Saint. The young people of the island are challenged in a series of launches of hot air balloons made with tissue paper and decorated by hand, which become real masterpieces even if their destiny is already told.
After the launch, the balloons fueled by the “stuppolo”, rags and papers soaked in naphtha, fly out and fall into the open sea often leaving the many spectators that come here specially for the show, open mouthed in wonder.
The religious program begins with the celebration of the Solemn Mass on 10 September, during which the statue of the Saint is displayed in front of the gathered faithful, and has its climax on 20 September with the procession through the streets of the island.
Every September 19th, during the Traditional Games, the long-awaited race is held where the island’s boys compete to get the best balloon prize. What for many may seem a tourist attraction on the island of Ventotene, for many islanders still represents a synergy with the religious and remembrance moments.
On September 20, the air becomes more solemn. Ventotene wakes up early in the morning, with songs and sounds accompanying the path of the patron saint, from house to house, where it is traditional to set up a small banquet for breakfast as a symbol of offering.
It is the day of the procession through the streets of the village. All wait nervously for the passage of Santa Candida. The atmosphere remains cheerful throughout the day, when the launches of the hot air balloons and traditional games continue: a way to rejoice in the event and to unite the different generations of the island.
To close the festivities, a fireworks show paints the sky and leaves its spectators breathless.
An event rich in faith, culture, tradition and fun, inextricably linked to the name of Ventotene.