Eating Flowers in Spello

July 14, 2011

Spello - che bello! - is becoming world famous for its magnificent flower petal tapestries - Infiorate - carpeting medieval alleyways and piazzas for Corpus Cristi. Prior to the wonders, the Spellani compete in a contest of flowering balconies, windowboxes and alleyways, try out the rose and lavender flavors featured in the main piazza gelateria - and even eat flowers... read more...

Perugia …and all that Jazz!

July 14, 2011

Since 1973, In mid-July the rhythms of jazz, R&B, soul, Gospel, swing, Latino, zydeco, bebop, tango, blues, samba - to mention a few - fill frescoed Perugia theaters, reverberate off the walls of its stately medieval city hall and wrap around the Gothic sculptural masterpiece, the 13th-c fountain, in the main piazza. Yes, things are cooking in Perugia this week giving the city the redoubtable honor of being the hottest city in Italy - but Herbie Hancock, Santana, Prince, Liza Minelli, Gilberto Gil, B.B. King and countless other top musicians - are doing the cookin'...and the rockin' fans filling the piazzas and streets are feeling a different kind of heat... read more...

Bejeweled Baroque in Foligno

June 21, 2011

"The applause and affection of my fellow Folignati made up for the fatigue of wearing this stupendous gown," said Miss Italia, Francesca Testasecca from Foligno, (Umbria) after participating in the splendid Baroque evening pageantry of her city's festival, la Quintana. Culminating moment of the festivites is the jousting match the day after, rooted in the Roman history of the town, once called "Fulginium: the "Quintana" was the area of the Roman army camp, site of the the arduous training of the soldiers. Soldiers armed with swords or lances launched themselves at a target in the form of a soldier holding a ring, trying to run the sword through the ring, thus honing their accuracy... read more...

Bevagna’s Festival in June Heat: Passione

June 21, 2011

At the end of June, it's hot in Bevagna, medieval hilltown of Roman origins in the Valle Umbra Nord, Umbria's largest valley. Not exactly the ideal day for dressing in heavy woolen capes or jute or velvet gowns - or armor (!) - or for forging bronze bells, baking bread in a stone bread oven, minting coins, glass-blowing or tanning leather. Not even to be imagined: unless you are Bevignate. Months of work on their medieval festival, the Mercato delle Gaite, are coming to fruition now as the town relives its medieval culture and history...with passione. read more...

Umbria’s Sacred June Rites

June 13, 2011

It will soon be time to gather the wildflowers, weeds, grasses and leaves for the wondrous rural concoction, l'acqua di San Giovanni. After all, no morning wash is more glorious than that of Umbria's rural people in the early morning of June 24th. On June 23rd at sunset, vigil of the Festa di San Giovanni Battista, the farmwomen head out into the fields with baskets or bags to gather the cento erbe (literally,"one hundred greens or plants", though flowers as well as plants are picked). The flowers and plants will then be soaked all night in a basin - outdoors. The flower-filled basins of water must never enter the home. read more...

La Sagra: Something Sacred?

June 9, 2011

There certainly is something sacred about the sagra: a local village festival offering the best in local cuisine at minimal prices, top (and free!) dance band music outdoors til the wee hours and entertainment for all from pre-schoolers to the elderly. At some sagras, there are mini-soccer tournaments, others offer a performance of a local dancing school on one night, and others fill the food tent walls with artwork of the village school children. read more...

Gubbio’s Glorious Mad May Race

May 12, 2011

Dramatically perched on a hill overlooking the ruins of its Roman theater, Gubbio seems suspended in the Middle Ages: time has stood still in this stunning medieval hilltown. But slumbering Gubbio erupts in frenetic euphoria on May 15th for the mad race, la Corsa dei Ceri... read more...

Calendimaggio: Assisi’s Glorious Celebration of Spring

May 5, 2011

Since time immemorial, man has heralded the arrival of spring with ritual and festivity. In Assisi, committees meet nightly for months to plan the annual traditional salute to spring, the Calendimaggio. The three-day festival - which lasts three days - is a re-evocation of the medieval celebration of Nature's rebirth and the initiation once again of the life cycle.
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Singing in May in Umbria…

April 26, 2011

Pino and I had been working the land here outside of Assisi for about eight months and collapsed into bed exhausted on April 30th (1975) - as we did most nights in those days! At around 2:00 am, we were awakened by robust, joyous male voices singing under our window, accompanied by rollicking accordian music and the jangling of a tamburine: our first introduction to the maggiaioli! ("May singers"). read more...

“Planting May” in Umbria

April 26, 2011

On the vigil of May 1st, a small Umbrian hilltown not far from Gubbio, San Pellegrino, celebrates a curious May ritual grounded in Christian tradition but celebrated with a decidedly pagan flair: la Festa di San Pellegrino. Culminating moment of the festival is the "piantarmaggio" ("the planting of May"). read more...