Spring arrives quite early in Southern California, and I am always excited when I feel the new welcome warmth and the smell of the newly turned earth...
Spring is coming to an end, and Italy celebrates the last days of the season with the traditional flower art festivals called Infiorate. From Sicily to Lazio and Umbria, up to Emilia-Romagna and Liguria, skilled and creative artists use flowers to create stunning works of art in the streets or in front of the towns’ churches.
The design is usually sketched on the pavement using chalk or on paper the night before the feast, then outlined with soil and filled in with fresh or sun-dried petals, seeds, and leaves. The use of glue is not permitted, and even 3-D, perspective, and shadow effects must be reproduced exclusively through flower positioning.
In order to realize these beautiful “mosaics” – which can depict either a single scene, normally inspired by a religious theme, or a complex geometrical pattern -, the preparation must start a few months in advance as different and seasonal floral species need to be collected.
Just like many other festivals in Italy, the Infiorate are linked to a religious celebration and usually take place on the Sunday of Corpus Domini, the ninth after Easter.
Allegedly, the tradition of creating flower tapestries started in Rome in the early 17thcentury and was soon adopted in the nearby areas like Bolsena and Genzano, until it became known as the Infiorata.
In the small town of Genzano, the corso (main street) up to the local Church of St. Mary of the Hilltop is covered by about 13 floral compositions - each of them 7x14 meters - to be stepped on by the procession of the Blessed Sacrament held on Sunday night after mass.
In 2014, the colorful event, which attracts visitors and artists from all over Italy, will take place on June 22-23 and include the floral reproduction of an artwork by renowned Trans-Avant-Garde painter and sculptor Mimmo Paladino. Other topics selected this year for the 236th edition of the event are the 200th anniversary of the Carabinieri armed force, as well as tributes to Nelson Mandela and Michelangelo, and typical religious scenes dedicated to San Francesco and San Pietro.
Among the most famed Infiorate is a similar celebration held in the small town of Spello, in Umbria region, where a path of flower compositions one-mile long will cover the narrow streets of the historical center on the weekend of June 21-22, 2014.
In Spello, techniques and designs evolved throughout the years, until the first official contest was established in 1962. Today, the association “Le Infiorate di Spello” brings together about 1000 members committed to preserving and promoting the traditional feast beyond regional and national borders.
In the Baroque town of Noto, Sicily, the Infiorata usually takes place on the third Sunday of May after the designs have been meticulously prepared during the previous two days. The festival also features a variety of activities like parades and shows. On Monday morning, the town’s children are allowed to run in the streets and destroy the floral artworks as a symbol of renewal.