Narni in May: Medieval Passione Takes Over

May 8, 2012

In the 14th century during the first three days of May, Narni town criers called young riders to join in the races over the next few days: the race for the ring and the race for the Palio (flag), all in celebration of the martyrdom of their patron saint, San Giovenale. The ceremony lives on in early May in Narni as town criers on horseback crisscross the town, galloping under the colorful banners of the three terzieri ("district"), while drummers and buglers announce the festivities. read more

Madonna Primavera Reigns Over Assisi’s Calendimaggio

May 2, 2012

Fanciful legends, myths, age-old folktales, medieval morality plays, ballads and poetry are woven into the rich tapestry of Calendimaggio, Assisi's three-day May celebration of the arrival of spring. A much-loved Assisi legend recounts that long ago, a hooded old crone crept into a noble banquet, ignored by all the merrymakers except for five young damsels who proffered her food and drink. The old hag threw back her veil, revealing herself as La Primavera ("Spring") and the young damsels who assisted her are remembered today as five young damsels are chosen for each of the two factions of Assisi - La Nobilissima Parte de Sopra (the upper area of the town) and La Magnfica Parte de Sotto (the lower area). Another folktale recounts that Springtime who rectifies the chaos of the natural world thanks to her five daughters who put order and harmony into the five time periods of the day: dawn, morning, noon, afternoon, evening. read more...

Crossbow Passione in Assisi

April 30, 2012

In Umbria, you know spring is in the air when the balestrieri ("cross-bowers") compete in the piazzas seated behind their crossbows, one eye closed, taking aim. The crossbow is an inherent part of colorful medieval festivals animating Umbria, "Italy's green heart" and here in Assisi, La Compagnia Balestrieri di Assisi is integral part of the wondrous pageantry of Assisi's early May festival, il Calendimaggio, celebrating spring. read more...

Gubbio’s Festa della Liberazione, April 25th

April 23, 2012

"L'Italia e' libera. L'Italia risorgera'" ("Italy is free. Italy will rise again") announced the headlines of the newspaper Il Popolo, referring to the liberation from Fascist control of Milan and Turin April 25, 1945. Nowadays, on this day all over Italy, Italians gather to honor their fallen soldiers and in paricular, i partigiani, the partisans of the Italian Resistance who fought the Nazis as well as Mussolini's Fascist troops. Some towns will celebrate la Festa della Liberazione with political rallies or tributes at war monuments, others with concerts or marching bands, and some with flags, huge ones. read more..

Running with Fire in Grello

April 20, 2012

Rural youth living near the tiny walled hilltown of Grello (pop. 45) run whenever they can these days. In serious training. But not for a a track meet. They'll be running with fire on the night of June 23rd, vigil of the feast of St. John the Baptist, patron saint of this mountainside castle-village. Rituals in the Baptist's honor intertweave water rites with fire (his feast is at the time of the summer solstice); in fact, fire and water, propitious elements of purification, combine and merge in many late June Umbrian festivities, all rooted in Roman rituals. read more...

Perugia’s SAN COSTANZO – and a Sweet Wink

January 27, 2012

Perugia is not just proud of its chocolate, Etruscan artifacts and the Umbria Jazz festival: this provincial capital of Umbria also boasts not just one but three patron saints! Legend tells us that one of them, San Costanzo, first bishop, was buried outside of the city's Roman walls after his decapitation in the 3rd century. Celebrations start the night before his feast day, January 29, with the luminaria, the candlelit procession to the Church of San Costanzo, built on the site of his martyrdom. read more...

Sant’Antonio e il Malocchio

January 19, 2012

Our beloved San Francesco di Assisi might be revered as the patron saint of animals in other countries but certainly not here in Italy: Sant'Antonio Abate, 4th-century hermit saint who lived in the Egyptian desert with just a piglet for a companion, is the protector of Italy's animals. On his feast day, January 17th, animal-lovers gather at a designated church - cats in arms, dogs on leashes, turtles in boxes, canaries in cages, sheep harnessed, horses bridled - to have their animals blessed... read more...

Spello Celebrates its Gold

December 6, 2011

Acclaimed "la citta' dell'olio", Spello celebrates its "liquid gold" with the Festa dell'olivo e Sagra della Bruschetta every year in early December. Its 50th anniversary edition transforms this medieval hilltown gem into a showplace of art and photography exhibits, open markets, traditional Umbrian song and dance performances, oilve-oil tasting events - and more! - the second weekend of December. The president of the local Pro Loco (small tourist board), Umberto Natale, says " This manifestazione is much-loved by our Spellani and is dedicated to the land, our traditions, and a cultivation which has been the livelihood for centuries for many our families. We have now become a reference point for the production of top extra-virgin olive oils. We owe this to the excellence of our producers." read more...

In Città  di Castello, Magnificent Tubers Entice

November 11, 2011

In early November, white truffles star at the 32nd edition of la Mostra-Mercato del Tartufo Bianco in Citta' di Castello in the Upper Tiber Valley. But not only the prized white truffle, Tuber Magnatum Pico: all the many flavors of Umbrian fall goodness team with traditional culinary wisdom in this weekend dedicated to educating the taste buds and the mind through a kaleidoscope of conferences, cooking competitions, theatrical presentations and food tastings. read more...

November: Chestnuts, New Wine and Rural Lore

November 11, 2011

The Chapel dedicated to St. Martin and frescoed by Simone Martini in the 14th-century is certainly one of the masterpieces in our Basilica di San Francesco. St. Martin of Tours, 4th-century saint, is pictured as he gives his cloak to a freezing beggar outside the walls of Amien. According to legend, the beggar will reveal himself as Christ. The association is there: St. Martin, the bringer of warmth.... read more