Behind the (Floral) Scenes in Spello
On the feast of Corpus Domini (60 days after Easter), kaleidoscopic floral tapestries carpet the piazzas of Spello (this year, seventy masterpieces) and not only: narrow floral masterpieces run along the winding medieval alleyways like elegant table runners, flowered ones (but these flowers are real).
On the morning of the Infiorate festival, you’ll want to start your Spello “floral explorations” early – before the procession leaves the Santa Maria Maggiore church about 11 30 a.m. – and you’ll know it’s coming when you hear the blaring notes of the brass band. Yellow-cloaked members of the Confraternita’ di Corpus Domini (roots traced to the medieval brotherhood honoring the Body of Christ, i.e., the Host), flank the bishop, monstrance upraised carrying the sacred Host. Only the bishop walks over the floral majesties: confraternity members, the band, the singing and praying populace following and the carabiniei in their red plumed ceremonial hats, shining swords at their waists, walk solemnly on the edges of the floral wonders.
During my floral rovings, I came across Giuseppe in a wide-brrimmed hat, smiling and holding a step ladder steady for those who wished to climb it to photograh his group’s all-night (“we started at 10 pm last night,” he told me with a broad smile) floral fatigues, the work of his group of forty infioratori, called “Pochi ma buoni” (“ just a few..but good ones”).
I climbed up the ladder: what a wonder.
A few of the group were lounging sleepily near their floral carpet, inside the ground level of Giuseppe’s medieval house, now a garage and also used for storage of the firewood for the wood-burning stove.
What a pleasure to finally meet his wife, Luciana! I’ve know Giuseppe for a few years for he’s part of the group of elderly signori di Spello who sit together on the park benches in the main square every afternoon. With my tour guests, we always stop to chat with them. ( A few women sit on the benches in the lower part of the piazza – but most spellani women are home, cooking or cleaning, like Luciana).
One of the group was wearing this floral group’s T-shirt with their motto (in spellano dialect): “e da Luciana, ora se magna, se magna, se magna…se magna.”
Yes, “at Luciana’s you eat, eat, eat, eat..”: dinner for all the group before they started the floral work started with pasta with wild asparagus and local sausage and Luciana’s lasagne followed by roast pork and roasted potatoes were just the headliners of the Infiorate day lunch.
..and not only do the infioratori of Luciana’s group eat well, they work well and with creativity. And once again, that group took home first prize in the category Tappetti Figurativi (long floral carpets, in alleyways, with images, minimum 12 m. long).
quadri (pictures, “paintings” – minimum 24 sq m.), tappetti geometrici (long floral carpets, in alleyways, min. 12 m. – with a series of forms, not images) and “Under 14” (min. 12 m. long floral tapestries done by children under the age of 14).
I was giving a Spello tour the day afer the Infiorate and spotted Giuseppe on his usual bench, chatting with his cronies. No wide-brimmed hat on that day but a wide smile spread across his face at my “Congratulazioni e complimenti!… a tutto il gruppo.”
This isn’t the first win for the “Pochi ma buoni” flower artists. And I’ll bet it won’t be the last one.