I have many reasons to love Umbria, or “Il Cuore Verde D’Italia” (The Green Heart of Italy). It’s winding roads, cascading hills, and interesting villages are among the most general of its delights.
What most love about Umbria is the lack of commercialism that has yet to infect the region. You can still listen to the beautiful lingua Italiana when walking toward the piazza, enjoy a bella vista (without 10 tour buses obstructing your view) and enjoy the restfulness that the region truly evokes.
One of my favorite times to visit Umbria is late May to early June, specifically the city of Spello, where they host an Infiorate, a festival in which residents join in an effort to create beautiful flower tapestries that they display in the streets. There are Infiorates all over Italy, but the one in Spello has managed to escape from being generalized.
It all began in the 1930s when an elderly woman created a beautiful carpet of flowers outside her door in honor of Corpus Domini (a celebration of the body of Christ). The beauty of her tapestries inspired her neighbors and city dwellers. They began creating tapestries as well, and soon, the unification of artistic visions turned into a beautiful display of both community and creative expression.
Today, Spello’s Infiorate is the most popular.
During the ninth Sunday after Easter the streets become canvases to be filled with colorful artwork. Over 2,000 volunteers have been known to show up, assembling the millions upon millions of petals that will soon become tapestries. Local women bring coffee and sweets to keep the workers going, while men use their strength to hang up canopies to shelter the art from wind and rain. Some walk around and spray the flowers with water to keep them colorful and fresh. Within the last decade, the Infiorate in Spello has gained positive attention for its abstract artists.
In a 2003 New York Times article, Gail Sheehy describes the transition of the event. “the artisans have found inspiration in Kandinsky, Miró, Picasso, even Jackson Pollock.”
There are no solo artists, the creative expressions are created in groups. They do not sign their work, because too many signatures would take away from the beauty. The group is only acknowledged, and a first prize of $1,500 is awarded. This doesn’t seem like much when inevitably it will be divided among the team. The bishop will walk on the winning tapestry, and the petals will scatter. The artists sacrifice the beauty of their work to honor Christ.
As a visitor, we submit our senses to the vivacious colors and inviting smells. The culmination of this sensory experience is reason enough to visit Umbria;
preferably in June!
Written and contributed by dlcuratolo