Le Infiorate di Spello

For almost three years now (since we moved to Italy), I have had Le Infiorate di Spello on my “must-do” travel list and this year we finally made it!  Le Infiorate is a manifestation/festival that takes place every year on the ninth Sunday after Easter, celebrating the Corpus Domini feast.  Although there are similar demonstrations in other cities, the festival in the small Umbrian town of Spello is considered the most impressive.  Over 1,000 artists, most of them locals, begin work Saturday and work through the night creating elaborate flower carpet scenes/mosaics along the streets of Spello.  Visitors come from all over Italy to see the workers create their masterpieces on Saturday and see the finished products on Sunday morning.  On Sunday, at about 11am, the church procession takes place on the flower carpets, virtually destroying the work that was created just hours before.  It’s truly a temporary art installation!

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Umbrian Race Weekend – Corsa delle Carrette

The line-up for the one-man race

Bobby and I planned a weekend trip in Umbria around the Infiorate Festival (stay tuned for the next post!), but we ended up stumbling into another great festival of sorts.  La Corsa delle Carrette, a type of soap-box race for grown-ups, took place in both Narni and Spoleto last weekend.  On Saturday, the qualifying races were held, with men from all the different neighborhoods coming out to compete.  Those who qualified went on to compete in the finals on Sunday.  Because both are hilltop towns, it’s no surprise that the cities were perfect locations for the downhill races.  There were one-man and two-man competitions, just like bobsled.  In the two-man race, the second man (the guy in the back) pushed the small car and jumped in, where as the one-man competition started with just the help of gravity.  Narni’s competition has a 40-year history, while Spoleto’s version goes back a half-century.  Of course the cars have changed over the nears.  In Narni, the cars look like model Formula 1 cars and they are required to be buckled in.  (Apparently last year, two people ended up in the hospital after a nasty crash.) In Spoleto, we saw a lot more teenagers and twenty-somethings competing and the cars seemed to be a little more aerodynamic, kind of like the those in bobsled.  Hundreds of people flooded the city in each town to watch the racers zoom by on the straw-barrier lined streets.  You could follow the race anywhere in the city because a play-by-play was announced via loud speaker.  All-in-all, it was a very professional racing environment in Narni and Spoleto, even though the winners only gain local fame.

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Southern Italy Road Trip

Hotel beach in Castellabate

Today marks our three month mark from leaving Italy.  I cannot believe it!  Last week, Bobby and I took our final road trip to southern Italy, where we visited Bobby’s sister Eva and caught some rays on the beach.  Okay, to be honest, it was several beaches.  :)  Even though the southern regions of Puglia, Basilicata, Calabria, and Campania aren’t the most visited in Italy, they are certainly among our favorites.  The people are open, generous, and (generally) love getting to know us, a welcome change to some of the colder responses we’ve received in the north.

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The Croatian Coast

And we even found someone to take a photo of us

After Bobby took over duties for the last few blogs, I figured I should get back to my normal blogging routine (although he is a better writer than me)!  Last week, we took a ten day trip down the coast of Croatia, through Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and then back to Italy.  It ended up being quite a bit of driving, but well worth it.  It’s no wonder that Croatia has been on Nat Geo’s list of places to visit the last couple of years.  We started out in Zadar (after a short pit-stop in the Italian city of Aquileia), traveled through Split and Trogir, and then ended our Adriatic coast trip in Dubrovnik.

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Sicily – Stepping Back in Time [Part 2]

Scala dei Turchi

Carrie is currently working some other web tasks so I decided to pinch hit for her again.  Now that you’ve officially been warned, let’s talk about Sicily!

Our western loop continued with a trip to the Scala dei Turchi (the Turk’s staircase), a stark white rock formation that juts into the Mediterranean.  On our last trip to the Valley of the Temples, we passed really closed but didn’t quite make it there.  This time we vowed to see the calcium and clay formation that’s been a popular sunbathing spot since the Greeks populated the island.  Unfortunately for us, the wind was ripping and a storm was on the horizon so we didn’t get to layout.  We did however admire it from afar and above…. [Read More]

Sicily – Stepping Back in Time [Part 1]

The wildflowers made for a gorgeous landscape

I’ve been a bit slow about blogging lately, so here’s to catching up!  In mid-April, Bobby and I took a nine-day trip to Sicily and it was our second time visiting the island.  On our first trip, we visited some pretty amazing places – Taormina, Siracusa, and Agrigento (to name a view), which are located in the eastern half of Sicily.  This time, we wanted to make a western loop.  I guess you could say our “loop” got a little out of hand being that we ended up covering 3/4 of the island and driving over 500 miles.

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Florentine Birthday

Group shot

Yesterday marked the beginning of my last year of my twenties.  Yikes!  Luckily, I had some pretty great people to celebrate with.  Our friend Eva, who happened to be in town from Belgium, and our Italian friends Tatiana and Francesco joined Bobby and me for dinner at Piazza del Vino here in Firenze.  It was our first time at this (really!) lovely restaurant and we had a great time gorging ourselves on extremely large portion sizes of Italian food and good wine.  This was just the finale of my birthday, however.  Earlier in the day, Bobby treated me to peanut M&Ms (my absolute favorite) for breakfast, I drank my yearly Coca-cola, and we watched the first Formula 1 race of the year.  Bobby also gifted me two new cookbooks, tickets to the Romeo and Juliet musical, and a Kopykake (a projector to create some pretty awesome desserts that I’ve been lusting after), which should come in the mail any day now.  All in all, it was a pretty amazing day, which makes it a little easier to come to grips with the fact that I’m only a year away from being 30.  Double yikes!

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Viareggio Carnevale 2014

Confetti

This is our third year heading to Viareggio’s Carnevale celebration and each time, the floats and costumes never cease to amaze us.  The parade of Carnevale 2014 presented 15 floats, with some reaching heights as tall as 20 meters (over 65 feet)!  Over 1,000 people in 25 different artisan firms worked an entire year to create these giant floats made from paper mâché and their work definitely paid off.  At 15 Euro per ticket, the Viareggio Carnevale was able to bring in roughly 3 million dollars over the course of 5 different parade days.

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Skiing the Dolomites

Lovely.

For the past month or so, the weather in Florence has been very mild.  We’re talking temps in the mid-to-high fifties.  Conditioned by our surroundings, we were skeptical of the snow conditions for our upcoming trip to the Dolomites.  Thankfully, we hit the jackpot.  We had clear skies and near freezing temperatures (great skiing weather!) the first two days, while the next few days we got some fresh snow.  Bobby and I spent the week skiing, snowshoeing, and eating some superb food from our base in Santa Cristina in the Val Gardena ski region of the Dolomites.  Once again, we found ourselves thanking the Olmsted Foundation for this absolutely amazing three years in Italy.

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Cavalcata dei Magi – Epiphany in Florence

It was a very festive day

The Feast of Epiphany is celebrated on January 6th.  Epiphany marks the 12th day of Christmas when the three wise men (or magi) arrived at the manger bearing gifts for Baby Jesus and it is traditionally one of the most important holidays in Italy.  In Florence, the day is celebrated with the “Cavalcata dei Magi,” literally meaning the “Ride of the Three Kings.”  The parade starts in Palazzo Pitti, just south of the Arno River, and finishes in Piazza del Duomo, where the three wise men – riding in on horses – deliver their gifts to Jesus in the manger.  The parade is also accompanied by Florentines in medieval costumes, flag throwers, and a band.  This year, it is estimated over 700 people participated in the Cavalcata dei Magi to celebrate Epiphany.

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