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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Viareggio Carnevale 2014


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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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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Calcio Storico, MMA style

Gloomy skies over the arena

Each year, four neighborhoods battle it out in a single-elimination tournament of calcio storico (historical soccer).  The Rossi (red) team represents Santa Maria Novella, the Verdi (green) team hails from the quartiere of San Giovanni, the Azzuri (blue) team comes from Santa Croce, and the Bianchi (white) team sports the colors of Santo Spirito.  Bobby and I missed the matches last year because we were out of town and missed all but the championship game this year as well.  The final game is generally played on June 24th, the holiday of San Giovanni (Firenze’s patron saint).  Luckily, we arrived back in Firenze on the 22nd and were pretty excited to see the game.  We waited outside the gates for over an hour before we were let into the “stadium,” which is really just dirt laid in Piazza Santa Croce surrounded by metal stands.  Not more than fifteen minutes after we were let in, the skies darkened and the clouds opened up.  There was a torrential downpour.  The calcio storico game starts with a large procession; there are medieval costumes, drummers, flag throwers, horses, etc.  The parade of people took over two hours.  Did I mention it was pouring rain?  We were absolutely soaked, but we really wanted to wait it out to see the game.  Needless to say, the spectators were getting pretty rowdy because everyone just wanted to get the show on the road.  There were definitely lots of curse words/chants directed at the directors pleading to forgo all the pomp and circumstance and just let us watch the championship.  The players finally came on the field and five minutes later, the announcer came on the loud speaker and said they were canceling the game due to inclement weather.  WHAT?  They couldn’t have told us this before the two hour parade?  So this brings me to today.  The game was rescheduled for today and of course, we had complete opposite weather.  It was sunny with 85+ degree temperatures.  Add the heat to the drunken crazy Florentines, we had the perfect recipe for a very “special” (second) experience.  As Bobby stated after the game: “una volta basta e avanza.”… [Read More]

London(‘s) Calling

Iconic double-decker

We took a puddle jumper from Dublin to London and stayed for three days in the big city.  British friends told us horror stories about the weather, but for three straight days, the weather more than cooperated.  Ab-so-lute-ly perfect.  So much so that Bobby sunburned his face and our Italian friends couldn’t believe it happened in London. We set off on foot and saw as much of the city as we could – the Tower of London, London Eye, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey – just to name a few.  After over seven miles of trekking through the city streets, we were exhausted, but rewarded ourselves by indulging in one of my favorite desserts – sticky toffee pudding (or abbreviated STP if you are Bobby and you can’t handle me talking about it relentlessly!)  Bobby and I capped off our trip by attending the Lion King (for our 4th wedding anniversary!)  We agreed it was the best live show we had ever seen.  I’m going to admit, I kind of fell in love with London.  Maybe it was the wonderful weather or maybe it was the STP.  Okay, most likely the STP…. [Read More]

Carnevale 2013

Beautiful princess

This is the second year we’ve traveled to Viareggio, on Tuscany’s Mediterranean coast, for Carnevale.  The city is celebrating its 140th year for the parade this year, and it expects more than one million spectators to visit in its two week duration.  Viareggio’s Carnevale is known for the satirical papier-mâché floats, highlighting political figures from Europe and America.  Each float can take up to a year to design and build!

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Italian Chess + Grappa Tasting

Chess board set on fire

For Lindsey’s last weekend in Italy, we decided to attend a not-so-ordinary Italian chess match.  Every two years, the town of Marostica puts on a live chess match, with people and horses serving as the chess pieces. It takes place in the main town square surrounded by a medieval castle and city walls. The story of the chess game dates back to 1454 when two noblemen, Rinaldo D’Angarano and Vieri da Vallonara, fell in love with the Lionora, daughter of the Lord of Marostica’s castle.  As was custom in medieval times, the men challenged each other to a duel to decide who would win Lionora’s hand in the end.  The Lord, not wanting to make an enemy of either suitor or lose them for his army, forbid the duel.  Instead, he commanded that the men settle the dispute by a chess match and Linora would then marry the winner.  Lionora, however, was secretly in love with one of the men already.  She informed the public, should the winner be her one “true love,” the castle would be illuminated by white light so that everybody could share their joy.  They replicate this match every two years with a fireworks display at the end, basking the castle in white light.  (Yep, I guess the right man won in the end!)

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Where it all [or, at least most of it] began……Athens – Part One

Changing of the guard - marching back to get in line after the switch

Athens is considered one of the oldest cities in the world, with a history of over 3400 years.  It is where some of the first temples were built and where the first Olympic Games were held.  However, we are visiting Athens at a very interesting time; new history is about to be made.  Greece held national elections today and we just read that the Conservative Party won, which means that Greece will most likely be staying in the Euro Zone and the Greek people will suffer from the stiff austerity measures.  We are not sure if tomorrow will bring another peaceful day or a day of riots (like those of a month ago).  As for now, we are executing our duties as tourists and seeing the sites around this ancient city…. [Read More]

Buona Pasqua! [Happy Easter]

Twirling fire

Italy does Easter (Pasqua) big!  It is probably an even bigger celebration than Christmas in this country and most people will agree that few places in the world put on a more dramatic Easter display than Florence.  This was my first Easter experience in our new home, and since Bobby was out of town, mom, dad, and I put our rain gear on and headed down the block to the Duomo to catch the celebration.  … [Read More]

La spiaggia, Vino, e Carnevale… Buon weekend!

Most beautiful float

Every February, Italy hosts several festivals for Carnevale, the second largest being in Viareggio, on the western cost (just north of Pisa.)  We were graciously invited by Lou and Karin Frketic (OSC ’10 in Bologna) to check out the festivities, along with Paul Rogers (OSC ’11 in Lyon) and two other friends, Alexis and Mike.  Because the big parade for Carnevale didn’t kick-off until Sunday afternoon, we decided to meet in Montalcino, a small Tuscan city known worldwide for its Brunello wine.  While waiting on the others to arrive, Bobby and I also visited Grosseto, another southern Tuscan town and the Maremma Natural Park nearby…. [Read More]