Spello is truly one of Umbria’s most lovely gems! Nestling away on the hillside between Assisi and Spoleto, it is an enchanting hilltop town with a wealth of history. See medieval walls, Roman archways, renaissance painting and enjoy the cafes, ice cream parlours and restaurants that this little town has to offer.
During May and June, Infiorata festivals are held in various Italian towns and are definitely a must see if you are planning to visit one of the many regions where these festivals take place.
The word “infiorata” literally means “decorated with flowers” and this is exactly how the paintings created for the occasion are made, using flower petals, earth, and sometimes even beans or wood cuttings.
Tracing its origins to the 13th century, the Infiorata flower tradition as we know it today, dates back to the seventeenth century. It seems that the first flower carpets were made on the 29th of June 1625 in the Vatican Basilica by Benedetto Drei, head-florist at the Vatican, and his son Peter, who used flower petals like mosaic’s tesserae to decorate the basilica on the day of Saints Peter and Paul’s feast, the patron saints of Rome.
The infiorata artists use flowers with various nuances of colour and their petals to create both simple and elaborate designs on the streets leading up to their churches and abbeys. After months of work on the actual design of the painting, they first sketch them on the floor in chalk and mark each line with soil or coffee grounds. Then comes the job of filling in the marvelous creations with flower petals,using individual petals the way painters use the colours on their palette: broom for yellow, goat’s rue for blue, carnation for red, and wild fennel for green, etc. Some tapestries also use entire flowers and other greenery, making for more three-dimensional scenes.
Spello’s Infiorata began in the 1930’s and takes place every year in the small Umbrian town on the day of the Corpus Domini feast, on the ninth Sunday after Easter. On that night, almost a thousand people work strenuously to create carpets and pictures made of flowers along the narrow town’s streets. The floral creations cover streets throughout the historical centre in preparation to the passage of the Blessed Sacrament carried in procession by the bishop on Sunday morning. As techniques evolved over time, what was once a long uninterrupted carpet of flowers, characterized by a relatively simple design, became more sophisticated sets of bigger compositions. What is so special about Spello’s Infiorata, is that the artists compose their splendid carpets using flowers collected in the wild. While the use of other parts of the plants, like leaves and berries is allowed, the preference is given to the use of petals only, either fresh or dried. The use of wood and any kind of synthetic material is severely prohibited. The gathering and processing of these natural materials starts several months before their actual use, which means that the festival requires a year long effort in order to take full advantage of the variety of seasonal floral species the Umbria’s countryside offers.
Stay for a week in Apartment Quercia at Villa Bastiola and take a trip to Spello to enjoy this unique festival!