In occasion of the San Giovanni festival (or so called Lumaghitt festival) the fire works in Comacina Island represent one of the most evocative performances of Como Lake summer, but perhaps not everyone knows what lies behind this event.
A BIT OF HISTORY…
In the early decades of the twelfth century, the rivality between Como and Milan for the hegemony and control of the main roads and Alpine passes led to the Ten Years War in 1118.
During the conflict between Como and Milan, the Comacina Island sided in favor of the Lombard capital that was then destroyed. The island was therefore at the mercy of Como: it was invaded, set on fire and razed to the ground. It was 1169.
…AND OF LEGEND
The Legend tells that three centuries ago the inhabitants of the area managed to free themselves from the tremendous hail storms that every year in June devastated the crops, by imploring the protection of St. John the Baptist and making a solemn procession by boat to the island of Comacina. Since then, the furious storms stopped and the procession is repeated every year, with festivals and nocturnal illuminations to honor Saint John. It became a tradition to eat polenta and snails for the occasion.
During the night of the eve ( San Giovanni festival is always celebrated on the weekend of June 24th, the real day of St. John the Baptist) the lake is richly illuminated. Once with oil lamps placed in the shells of lake snails, called lumaghitts; today also with candles placed on the boats, on the balconies of houses and in the districts.
A pyrotechnic fireworks diplay “sets on fire” the island at night in 1,200 zones and over 10 quintals of fireworks at 400 meters high, and the lake is illuminated by thousands of floating lumaghitts. This remembers the fire and destruction of the island
On Sundays, a procession of boats, called “lucie”, picturesquely decorated and led by boatmen in traditional clothes, bring back the relics to the Isola Comacina; on board authorities, priests and festive people.
After mass in the lawns and on the shores of the lake, runs a festival based on tasty traditional foods.
Conclusion in beauty is the inevitable “San Giovanni boat race”, a “Lucie boat” competition on the lake , starting from Ossuccio and arriving in Sala Comacina.