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The Legend of Santa Rosalia

No one knows for sure who Santa Rosalia was. She's more legend than real woman. She was born in 1130, supposedly to a patrician Norman family said to be descended from Charlemagne. Never a swinger, she was a very pious young lady. In order to escape an arranged marriage, she fled to a cave in Monte Pellegrino in 1159 and died there in 1166.

When the Black Death swept over Palermo in 1624, the story goes, the figure of Rosalia appeared to a hunter. She directed him to her remains in the cave and ordered him to bring her bones to Palermo. She was then carried in a procession through the streets and properly buried.

After that, the plague disappeared. Ever since, Rosalia -- now Santa Rosalia -- has been revered as the patron saint of the city.

A festival held in her honor, every year on July 14, is a major social and religious event in Palermo. You can join the faithful on September 4, when the true believers walk barefoot from Palermo to the saint's sanctuary.

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