Pentecost in the Catholic Church is a festival celebrating the descent of the Holy Spirit on the disciples of Jesus after his ascension. In simple terms, it’s like the church’s birthday. The date for Pentecost varies each year as it is held on the seventh Sunday after Easter.
FYI: Pentecost is celebrated throughout Europe and it’s a popular period for travel & vacationing. This year Pentecost actually overlaps with the June 2nd Festa della Repubblica Italian national holiday weekend so expect it to be a particularly busy time to visit.
Villagers in the Cinque Terre celebrate Pentecost traditions that have been passed down from generation to generation. In Riomaggiore, festivities take place at its hilltop sanctuary called Santuario Nostra Signora di Montenero (affectionately referred to as the Madonna di Montenero). Things kick off with a religious procession (although hike is a more accurate description) Saturday evening.
The evening procession starts at 6pm at the small church located at the top of via Colombo and follows trail SVA (known to locals as the Via Grande) to the sanctuary.
Special relics will be carried up to the sanctuary during this procession and these items will be on display for the numerous Mass celebrations that will take place on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday (see the schedule below for specific times).
If you plan to join the procession, decent walking shoes are a must. Also, if you have a small flashlight I recommend bringing it. After the safe delivery of the relics to the sanctuary, everyone will walk down another (shorter) trail to reach a bus that will shuttle people back to Riomaggiore.
If you aren’t up for the evening hike, many people picnic at the sanctuary during the day on Sunday and Monday (weather permitting).
I’m a sucker for cultural events like this. If you decide to attend you may very well see me there!
P.S. Wondering about the difficulty level of the hike to the sanctuary? I would consider this hike to be medium in difficulty, mostly due to the uphill climb. Never fear, my 5 year old has hiked this like a pro on numerous occasions.