Italian Cities Transform Streets into Carpets of Flowers in Infiorata
Every year, throughout May and June, the streets of Italian towns transform into beautiful, colorful pageants of flowers. The “infiorata” festival means “decorated with flowers,” and it is during this time that you can explore exquisite works of art created by only what Mother Nature provides. The streets are carpeted with flower petals in displays of incredible artistry.
Honoring Traditions with Flower Carpet Festivals
This breathtaking custom began in the 13th century, but the version that still graces the streets today began in the 17th century. The tradition goes back to the day of Saint Peter and Saint Paul’s feast in 1625. This year, on the 29th of June, the head florist of the Basilica, Benedetto Drei, created mosaics of flower petals at the Basilica.
This idea caught on and was spread by Gian Lorenzo Bernini around Rome for celebrating the famous Baroque festivals for which he was famous. In Rome, this custom faded away by the end of the 17th century, but the locals loved the tradition, and it was kept alive. In 1778, the tradition became linked to the Christian celebration of Corpus Domini. In Genzano, a huge carpet of flowers is laid out for the entire length of the center street to mark the occasion.
Flower Carpet at Infiorata: A Grand Celebration
Infiorata are a grand celebration that begins when the artists choose the flowers for their subtle color changes in their petals. Each design takes months of work and up to a year of preparation. They first sketch the designs onto the floor with chalk and then mark each line with soil or coffee grounds. Next, they fill the lines with flower petals.
Each artist has their own color palette. Many use dyer’s broom for yellow, goat’s rue for blue, wild fennel for green, and carnation for red. Some of the creations use entire pieces of plants to give the piece a three-dimensional effect. The artistry is elaborate, using only subtle shades to create pieces that are quite realistic. Many of the pieces are done in the style of Renaissance paintings or stained-glass windows. They reflect both new artistry and time-honored traditions. Some are simple, and others are quite complex.
In Genzano, the flower carpet covers about 2,000 square meters, which is over 21,500 square feet. That is a bit under half of a football field. This display consists of 15 panels and uses about 500,000 flower blooms, petals, and seeds. Sometimes, other natural materials are used, including wood, sand, beans, and leaves.
Each of these floral elements must be carefully picked and hand-processed to keep them from damage and bruising. It is a delicate and gentle operation. They must be done in time to allow them to be ready for the festival, but not too soon, so that they will be at their peak during the festival.
The flowers are carefully prepared and laid out by the artists. The festival itself lasts about 48 hours, then it all comes to an end. They are showcased from Friday through Sunday, with the main event and procession taking place on Sunday.
Best Places to See the Floral Carpet at Infiorata
It is worth planning a trip to see these exquisite floral creations. Some of the most notable displays include the towns of Orvieta in Umbria, Pienza in Tuscany, Potenzoni di Briatica in Calabria, and Brugnato in Liguria. They are also held at the Abbey of Chiaravelle della Columbia in Fidenza.
Other notable Infiorata celebrations include Infioriata di Genzano, which is held in Rome sometime in June. The Infiorata di Noto is held in mid-May. Both of these towns put on exquisite displays of floral carpet creations that are a feast for the eyes and senses. This is just one more reason to make a visit to Italy during this time. Most of the festivals are held on the Sunday of Corpus Domini, which is nine weeks after Easter, so this is the best time to visit.
The town of Spello is another favorite flower carpet viewing location. This town began its festival in the 1930’s. It takes place on the ninth Sunday after Easter, when many of the main festivals take place. To prepare for this festival, nearly 1,000 people work all night long to prepare the carpets made of flowers. They are laid out throughout the historical center of the city in a breathtaking display. The event ends when the Bishop carries the blessed sacrament in a procession.
The celebration in Spello is a favorite because of the beautiful setting. When the festival began, the designs were simple, but they have evolved into highly sophisticated levels of artistry. The festival at Spello has several rules. Only flowers collected in the wild can be used. They prefer only that the petals of the flower are used, but they do permit other parts like leaves and seeds. They can be used either fresh or dried. No wood or any synthetic material is allowed at this festival.
For each of these festivals, the preparation begins as much as a year in advance. The processing of materials begins several months before the festival. The planning must begin almost immediately following the festival for the next year because many of the plants used are seasonal.
Infiorata is a Festive Time with Flower Carpets
Of course, the beautiful carpets of flower designs are something that is almost sublime to behold, but it is an Italian festival and holds all of the splendor that one expects. In all towns, there is a grand procession that often features marching bands, food, and celebration in true Italian fashion.
In Genzano, the peak of the festival is when the procession passes down the large carpet of flowers. At the end of the procession comes the spallamento. This is when children run down the steps of the church of Santa Maria and undo the floral creations, bringing the festival to a glorious end.
The festival at Genzano has grown over the years from a local tradition to an international attraction. It has also expanded to include people of all faiths who come to witness the event locally and from abroad. Thousands come to see this festival every year.
The festival in Noto was only revived in 1980 and has grown to become a favorite. Even the prisoners in local jails are allowed to view the festivities. The town is a world of wonderful Baroque architecture and balconies that create one of the most beautiful sights in the world.
If you are planning a trip to Italy, it would be well worth your while to choose a time when one of these glorious festivals is taking place. Each of these festivals is special. They showcase not only the local artistry but also the abundance and beauty of the local landscape. They are a great way to experience the local culture and experience one of the most spectacular events the world has to offer.