If you are traveling to Italy in May or June, you should schedule a visit to one of the famous infiorata or flower festivals. The infiorata are religious festivals held in various towns in Italy, using flower petals to create large and fantastic floral decorations on the street.
We recently had the good fortune to attend the infiorata in the charming medieval town of Spello, found in Umbria near Assisi and Perugia.
Touring the Best of Umbria
Spello is worth a visit at any time, as it is one of three beautifully preserved medieval towns in Umbria, the others being Montefalco (famous for its wine) and Bevagna. They are near each other, and each are worth a day trip, to wander through the cobblestone streets, shop for lovely linens, look at the churches and monasteries, and of course have a delicious meal.
The additional benefit is that they are not as heavily visited as nearby Assisi, even at the height of tourist season.
Towns Prepare for the Flower Competitions
The entire town gets involved in the infiorata. In Spello, when we visited last June, there were 50 teams competing. There were various themes for the designs: carpets, artworks, religious, abstract. This being Italy, all the teams were a family affair, with toddlers, teens and nonnas participating. There were also some teams of only children, for example the students from the arts school, or a team of high school students, creating their own floral displays.
It’s worth it to go for the weekend, so that you can see the entire process. In Spello, the designs must be finished by Sunday 10am of Corpus Domini, which is the ninth Sunday after Easter.
The teams start gathering Saturday evening, many putting up tents to cover their designs. As we walked through the town, we saw the groups gathered together, shredding the flower petals. All the teams had their designs laid out in a large stencil on the ground, and some teams had photos of what the finished design would look like.
By Saturday evening, the teams were well underway filling in their designs. They worked throughout the night, as tourists walked around the town watching them work and taking photos. Early the next morning we strolled around again, to see the progress of the designs.
By 9:00 am Sunday morning, the tents were coming down, and all the designs were laid out in the street for people to see, and for the judges, who we saw walking around with their clipboards. The restaurants in town offered flower based menus, the town was buzzing with tourists and infiorata participants.
Enjoying the Beauty of Floral Creations
The finished art works were absolutely spectacular, more appreciated by having watched the laborious process. Some had roped areas protecting them, but many were just on the street, carefully avoided by the throngs of passersby.
At 11:00 everyone gathered in the piazza outside the cathedral, waiting for the procession to emerge from the church. Out they came, walking through some of the infiorata designs, and proceeded to walk throughout the village.
Within a few hours it was all over, and the petals were gathered up, and the tourists were mostly gone. A wonderful weekend or day trip excursion, one the whole family will enjoy.
Trip Planning Details to catch the Infiorata
One of the most famous infiorata festivals is in Noto, Sicily, usually held the weekend of the third Sunday in May. Noto is a beautiful Baroque town and UNESCO World Heritage site in southeast Sicily.
On mainland Italy, the date for the infiorata is usually the Sunday of Corpus Domini (Corpus Christi), celebrated nine weeks after Easter.
Other top infiorate aside from Spello include:
Bolsena, north of Rome, carpets about 3km of pavement with flower tapestries along the route for the Corpus Domini Sunday procession. The Miracle of Bolsena occurred in this town on Lake Bolsena.
Brugnato, a small town in the La Spezia province of Liguria inland from the Cinque Terre holds an infiorata the Sunday of Corpus Domini. Work starts in the early morning to create flower tapestries along the streets of the town center. Visitors can view the flower art in the afternoon and there’s a procession from the cathedral over the tapestries at 6pm.
Genzano di Roma, south of Rome, has been holding an infiorata since 1778.
Orvieto, in the region of Umbria, has a costumed procession with over 400 people and the streets are decorated with flower art.
The Abbey of Chiaravalle della Colomba, near Fidenza in northen Italy’s Emilia Romagna region is one of several abbeys that create flower tapestries inside for Corpus Domini.
The Italian Tourist office provides information on festival dates, transportation options and nearby lodging.
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