My 5 week backpacking trip around Italy in 2007 was my first major solo travel endeavor. I researched and planned like mad and more or less threw myself into a foreign land without a second thought. Though I didn’t really know what I was doing, it went exceedingly well.
I’ve definitely refined my travel skills in the 7+ years since then, learning from travel mistakes and crafting better trips. My main takeaway from Italy? Always research which festivals or events are going on around the time you’re planning to take your trip. I didn’t even think to do this before I booked my flight to Milan, but by chance in my research I came across Infiorata, a festival happening throughout different towns across Italy in May and June – luckily enough, the same timespan I’d be in the country. I checked my meticulously-planned route and noticed that I was due to travel through Umbria riiiiiight around the day Infiorata would be celebrated in Spello, an Umbrian hilltown. Sold!
Here’s a look at Infiorata in Spello, Italy —
What is Infiorata?
In short: Infiorata is a festival held on the night of the Corpus Domini feast, commemorated by constructing colorful flower carpets on the streets. It usually takes place on the 9th Sunday after Easter, commonly falling in the late May to mid June period. Groups of townspeople band together as far as a year in advance to design a socio-religious themed scene and prepare its floral manifestation the night before the procession.
During the year-long preparation period, flowers and other natural materials are gathered and processed. Some are collected and dried out months in advance, while others are picked fresh. Technically participants are allowed to use any natural material, such as berries, leaves, fennel, coffee grounds, and hay – however, the Infiorata in Spello is unique because its flower carpets are comprised solely of wildflowers collected from the Umbrian countryside throughout the year.
As I was walking around town on Saturday afternoon, I watched as older Italian women sat in their doorways and picked off fresh flower petals to use that night. Elsewhere, petals were being put through machines that chopped them up into tiny pieces.
From Saturday afternoon through the night, flower carpets are assembled all over town. Most are enclosed within tents, primarily to shield the participants from the sun as they work – though I also suspect each team prefers to keep their work hidden until the unveiling on Sunday morning.
The tapestry is mapped out on the ground, either sketched in chalk or drawn on a large white sheet of paper. Each section is labelled with a different color name, from bianco to giallo to rosso and various shades in-between, not unlike a paint-by-number montage. Except instead of painting, the Italians carefully fill each section with a different colored petal, varying in texture and shade. I observed their technique, noticing how they’d use a small card to delicately push the petals just inside the lines of the pattern with such precision.
I returned to Spello on Sunday morning to find the main road flooded with color and maneuvered my way through the crowd to get a good look at the finished flower tapestries. There were small ladders set up by most of them which you could climb to get a view from above, but I was so frustrated by people who would cut in front of me that I couldn’t be bothered fighting my way in. The amount of people crammed into this tiny town for the celebration was a bit much for me to handle, so I quickly browsed the flower displays and headed out before the procession began.
Despite the heat and the crowds on the last day, I’m so glad I got to experience Infiorata in Spello. Between the impressive flower tapestries and the small-town charm of Spello itself, it was well worth the effort of incorporating it into my Italy trip.
How to plan for Infiorata
There are several towns throughout Italy where you can catch the Infiorata. Most take place on the 9th Sunday after Easter, though some towns (e.g. Noto) celebrate on a different day.
- Noto (Sicily)
- Genzano (Lazio)
- Spello (Umbria)
- Bolsena (Lazio)
- Pienza (Tuscany)
- Orvieto (Umbria)
- Potenzoni di Briatico (Calabria)
- Brugnato (Liguria)
- Fidenza (Emilia Romagna)
No matter which you choose, plan to be there the Saturday evening and Sunday morning of Corpus Domini. On Saturday night you’ll be able to watch the townspeople construct their flower carpets, and on Sunday you’ll witness the procession down a street full of flower carpet scenes.
Because I was an inexperienced traveler and on a tight budget, I booked most of my accommodation in advance for my 5 weeks in Italy. There weren’t any hostels in Spello, so I ended up booking a bed in Foligno, just a 5 minute train ride away. While this option was kinder to my wallet, it was a slight hassle having to plan my time at the Infiorata in Spello around the infrequent trains. If you have more money than time to kill while in Italy, I’d recommend splurging on a B&B in Spello – just be sure to book early!