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The fabulous flower festival of Cittą della Pieve
It's 5:45 in the morning after the longest day of the year - the air is warm, but the sky still has the soft pale blue, almost white, look of dawn. The sun, low and hazy, has yet to stoke and build up her heat. The brick steps are still cool and there is freshness in the shadows. We are up (the whole family) and, with barely a tussle, have managed to assemble - bleary and blinking - by the car.
Umbrian countryside along to the way to Cittą della Pieve
We drive through the sleepy, breezeless countryside past putty-coloured olive groves and inky cypress trees standing still, silent and spellbound as the Sunday morning bells ring in the day. Soon, we arrive at Cittą della Pieve, keen and hungry. Here, the streets are being carpeted with flowers and it is this that we have come to see, the Festa dei Fiori, in honour of S. Luigi Gonzaga, protector of the Casalino Terziere.
Cittą della Pieve
These beautiful decorations are made once a year, in June, on the nearest Sunday to the Summer solstice. The festival's origins are lost in the mists of time, but some say it marks the solemn procession of Spring. Many of the designs are traditional, taking their inspiration from the Renaissance and the local master, Perugino ... but every year, new designs are added in rich and subtle colours.
Beautiful flowers of Cittą della Pieve
Flowers and scented herbs are grown in the surrounding countryside specially for this extravaganza and for 3 months prior to the day locals collect and dry the blooms and seed heads in preparation. No money changes hands, it is simply the Italian way.
We wanted to be in Cittą della Pieve early in the day to see the work in progress. Volunteers have been up through the night creating these vibrant scenes. Ordinary people, nonnas with their grandchildren, the man from the bar and another, the big gruff man who sells tickets for the Perugino and hides his broken smile. Today, he walks up and down spraying the flowers with sugar water which will harden and set the blooms.
More flower decorations of Cittą della Pieve
There is an atmosphere of hushed business and an up-beat vibe. The whole place glows in the intensifying sunshine, the vivid colour of the petals radiant against the old stone and red brick of the town.
This wonderful show of dedication and artistry is made all the more fascinating by its fleeting nature: later this evening, a procession of townspeople will walk over the flowers to the main piazza scattering the blooms to the gutter in their wake.
Vivid colors of the flowers against the
As we walk between the images, taking photos, laughing with our girls, chatting with the old guys, restraining the dog and stopping for cappuccio and cornettos, I have to admit it was well worth the wake up call.
Amanda and Julian Hyzler run painting holidays and art vacations from their home on the border of Tuscany and Umbria. They have been writing a blog since they moved to Italy in 2006, A Tuscan view, from Umbria.
© Amanda Hyzler 2008
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