Festivals in honour of the beloved saint are full of music, dancing and frivolity, while bonfires are lit and burn well into the night.

Though they take place across the whole nation, these festivities are particularly popular in central and southern Italy.

Also known as Saint Anthony the Great, Saint Anthony the Abbot was an Egyptian monk and hermit who renounced his worldly possessions in the name of his faith and performed miracles throughout his life.

He is considered the first man to live a truly monastic lifestyle in the wilderness and it’s believed he was repeatedly tempted by the devil, persevering through prayer.

This aspect of the saint’s life is often portrayed in images of him with the devil at his feet.

Saint Anthony is widely celebrated in Italy as the patron saint of butchers, domestic animals, basketmakers and gravediggers.

Venerated as a protector of domestic animals, one legend claims that he went to hell to steal the devil’s fire, and, while he distracted the devil, his piglet ran in and stole a firebrand to take back to humans on Earth.

Hence the burning of bonfires on his feast day.

The saint is also renowned for protecting against skin diseases, especially shingles, known as “Fuoco di Sant’Antonio” (Fire of Saint Anthony) in Italy.

In Novoli, a small village in the southern Italian region of Puglia, locals honour the town’s patron saint, Sant’Antonio Abate, on the eve of his feast day.

This ritual is said to date back at least 1000 years and is credited to monks from the east who settled in Novoli.

The fòcara, a huge bonfire made with olive branches and grape vines, is lit in the town’s piazza.

The bonfire is accompanied by religious processions, music, dancing, food and drink.

Meanwhile in Rome, Saint Anthony’s feast day is celebrated at the Church of Sant’Antonio Abate on the Esquiline Hill, and locals take their animals to be blessed in the nearby Church of Sant’Eusebio, in Piazza Vittorio.

Further south, the Sicilian town of Nicolosi pays homage to Saint Anthony with ceremonies which begin before dawn, when the monks repeat their vows of dedication to God and to the saint.

Set against the striking backdrop of Mount Etna, the festival is filled with parades and solemn ceremonies.

This is just a handful of examples of how Italians pay tribute to Saint Anthony the Abbot, a man who lived in solitude but who has touched the lives of so many.