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.