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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Cascata delle Marmore

cascata

The Cascata delle Marmore, or Waterfall of Marmore, is a man-made waterfall created by ancient Romans.  It falls over 165 meters (541 feet) over three “shelves,” making it one of the tallest in Europe and the largest man-made waterfall in the world.  Located near Terni, in the southern part of the Umbria region, the waterfall is definitely an amazing little (big!) gem of the region.  The area has been turned into a park/tourist attraction, with several walking paths winding its way up and around the waterfall.  They built a tunnel with a “lover’s balcony” jutting out over the cascade (which is currently under construction) and are in the process of creating a botanical garden…. [Read More]

The Beaches of Gargano

Sunset on the beach in Vieste

This summer, we set out to visit some of the “less traveled” areas of Italy, including both the Molise and Abruzzo regions.  However, we started out in Puglia, known for its long coast line, beautiful beaches, and sunny disposition.  While most people visit the “heel” of Italy (like we did last year), we stuck to the lesser known “spur” area of Puglia.  Home to the Gargano National Park, the spur is a virtually untouched area with the best beaches we have ever been to in Italy.  The two largest towns, which aren’t very large by most standards, are Vieste and Peschici, both of which are summer havens for Italians, Germans, and Austrians.  How can you go wrong when the sand feels like flour and the water is almost bath water? … [Read More]

Biennale d’Arte 2013 (and more Family Travels!)

Spice art by artist Sonia Falcone

We continued our week of family site-seeing with a walking tour of our “hometown” Florence and then a drive to the tiny town of Agello, Italy, where Terri once lived with the kids.  The weather didn’t really cooperate, so we decided to seek refuge in Montalcino, where we enjoyed some Brunello wine tasting.  We capped off the week by heading to the Venice Biennale once again (see here for last year’s Biennale for architecture), but this time we took in the art exhibition.  We had a wonderful time seeing Italy together.  It was Terri and Daisy’s first time back to Italy in over 30 years, and Ruby’s first time ever!

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Our 1st Italian Anniversary!

Hillsides of Todi

September 6th marks our first anniversary of living in Italy and I cannot believe that we’ve already been here a year.  In order to reflect on our experiences, I decided to take a look back on our favorite places we’ve visited and highlight some of the benefits (and some of the oddities) of Italian life.  We are incredibly thankful for this wonderful opportunity provided by the Olmsted Foundation and we are excited for what the 2nd year of this journey will bring!

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Up, Up, and Away!

Piazza del Popolo

I am a sucker for hot-air balloons.  Every time I see one floating in the sky, I think of the wonderful movie “Up” and think of what a magical experience it would be to float over the world below in a colorful balloon.  In Italian, hot-air balloons are called “mongolfiere”, a funny (but I think fitting) name for something that engulfs the sky.  Yesterday, Bobby and I drove down to Todi, a small medieval town perched on a hill in the Umbria region, to witness the 24th annual “Gran Premio Italiano Mongolfieristico”, or the Italian International Hot-Air Balloon Grand Prix.  26 competitors from all over Europe come together each year to race hot-air balloons.  (I didn’t even knew there were competitions for balloons to tell you the truth).  The competition/festival usually lasts 2 weeks and the balloons launch each morning at 6:30am.  Also, on one night each year, some of the competitors bring their balloons to the main sights around Todi to light up the city.  This is the spectacle that we thoroughly enjoyed seeing!

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