Once more around the town, and the tents were all coming down for the judging and the procession at 11 that followed the Corpus Domini mass.
The intricate designs were now almost completed, with only final touches being given. The two starving children were complete, as was the refrigerator above their heads. The narrow streets were decorated down their centers, with one beautiful and colorful design after another, and the crowds were temporarily thinned. In the main square, several of the largest designs were now out from under their tents—no rain, no wind, no longer necessary for lighting during the night, either.
The complexity of the designs was stunning, and all for one day. The judges will take their votes, the priests will walk over the flowers during the procession through Spello, and then the street sweepers will take all of this beauty away.
Giorgia’s friends sat with her in a doorstep, their design completed. Teens were asleep in the street, after a long night of hard work, but the designs were all completed.
One design had a tiny bit of Spello—the clock tower on the Santa Maria Maggiore church, and an abstract representation of the town about the city walls. With such a small pallet of colors, all from local wildflowers or from a few purchased flowers, these brilliantly colored designs were a surprise to me.
The planning and flower preparation and template preparation, and then actually putting the petals down on the ground, were skills far beyond what I had imagined I would see. I suppose the Infiorata improves every year, with the skills building and the “bar raised” for prizes as the years go by.
Heading back to my squadra’s design, I came upon a little guy about 2 years old, who just could not wait to get in on all the fun. He had gotten into the leftover materials of his mother’s team, and was mimicking the work he has been watching others do, and making his very own design on the pavement. I squatted down near him and watched him play for about 15 minutes, and he was oblivious to the many who stopped to photograph him, or smile at his “artistry.”
Many of the designs I had been observing in the making were now complete. In the details, the seeds and shredded leaves and petals were evident, all used to tell stories or make a statement, most religious.
Back at the B&B, I leaned out the window to photograph one large design just below, where the workers were spraying the petals with water to keep them in place, and to keep the colors bright for the judges. (This later was the design in the large size category, by adults, that took the grand prize award.)
At our design, all of the elements were complete. I photographed the baby that Paola had created, since she had finished him while I was touring the other designs. She had been up all night without sleep, mostly due to the delay in getting started. If Anna and the paper templates had arrived as planned, we could have started much earlier and possible finished during the night. Instead, it was nearly 8 a.m. before we were done. Looking at the photos, I can identify each of the flowers in each color in the design, after working in the garage with Graziella and the other women.
The tourists with the cameras reappeared in the morning, and many of the squadras provided stepladders for the photographers, including our squadra, so that they could get good photos from a higher vantage point.
At 11, after the 10 a.m. mass, the procession began to climb up the hill from Santa Maria Maggiore through the streets. The streets were packed with tourists, and then the people from the mass were coming, following the cross and the musicians. All were careful NOT to step on the designs, walking around the edges and taking a look at each of the designs for the last time.
The priests came with long banners on poles, and were careful to pass them over the designs, without touching the banners to the flowers. I supposed the women in the blue capes were choir members, perhaps, and no one stepped on the flowers.
Finally, though, the canopy arrived and was carried over the “vescovo” (“bishop”), who carried a religious reliquary in his hands, a silver “star” that carries a relic in the glass chamber in its center. Finally, these bearers of the canopy, and the vescovo and the relic, passed directly over the flowers, scattering all the designs with their steps and their gowns. Behind them were the “sindaco,” the ever-present “mayor,” and all the parishioners who had joined in the procession.
I got a shot of the baby that Paola had just completed that morning, with the trail from the procession across the flowers.
When the procession had passed, the town became silent. The sun was parching the petals on the ground, the tourists had begun to leave, the workers who had not slept all night were finding lunch and a nap somewhere, and the cars were still prohibited from coming back into town. It was silent and I was alone, walking the streets.
I found one indicator that the Infiorata was finished: an empty Moretti beer can had been tossed into the big design outside the B&B. I stooped to pick it up and put it into the trash, and got rewarded by a long conversation with an old gentleman who happened to see me picking it up. We talked about how the design was still beautiful, and how that beer can was not respectful of all the work that had gone into creating the design all night, and for weeks before the Infiorata. I could just not leave it there, and Aldo complimented me for my ‘good heart.’
I found a small wine cup in the trash, and decided to pick up some of the petals from our design as a souvenir of my Infiorata experience. Since the flowers were now dry and fading in the sun, and with the street sweeper coming soon, I collected a small sample of each of the flowers I had prepared to take home with me to the U.S. Apparently, others had thought about doing the same, but hadn’t done so until they saw me collecting petals. First, a lady across the piazza began to collect petals from our design, and then one of the men from Treviso staying at the B&B followed, and we all had our little, crispy mementos of the Infiorata 2009.
While Paola and Leonardo got some well-deserved sleep after lunch, I was back at the B&B downloading photos and listening intently for the street sweeper that I had been told would come by and remove the designs in one pass. When it finally arrived at about 5:30, I ran down with my camera to capture the end of the designs.
The big design in front of the B&B went first, as the brushes swept up the petals and brushed the paper template off the pavement, where it had been pasted into place. Next was our design, as the street sweeper crawled slowly up the tail of the ribbon and through the arch to the piazza.
I watched the petals get swept from the design, mixed and then vacuumed into the sweeper, as the street was left clean. Just as the sweeper got to the face of Jesus, a large crowd of people passed in front of me, and I missed the photo I wanted of the sweeper passing over the face. Later, I decided, that was probably not a photo I would have like to have, and didn’t regret that I missed the shot.
That is how the Infiorata is ended: the crowds leave town and the special parking lots; the resident cars return to Spello when the street has been re-opened; people are catching up on sleep everywhere; and the awards were given out that evening. Paola’s squadra did not receive any awards, but Giorgia’s team did (second place, many categories according to size of design and ages of the team). The Grand Prize winner was the big design just outside the window of the B&B, a second year in a row for the designer. There was much grumbling about the prizes in some categories, but this Infiorata is over.
We all joined Anna and Stefano and Robespierre for a final dinner at Stefano’s house, Leonardo said good-bye to me before leaving for Terni in the morning for work, and Paola drove me to the station for my train. This festival was the highlight of my current trip to Italy, and the reason that I am here this time of the year, for the first time. I was given the run of the B&B, in Robespierre’s home, but certainly missed having him nearby. It’s done, this is the end of this series of Infiorata blogs, and I hope I get another chance some day to come and help the squadra, and see them be awarded a prize for their efforts. It was more fun than I can describe, and rather like having one big family welcoming me to Spello, and including me in everything.
(Last note: I got a call from Leonardo to tell me that Paola’s floral display at the B&B took the second prize this year, and she got a huge trophy. This is the balcony, terrace, and garden competition all over town—and she got the second prize two years ago, too. Next year, first prize! Hooray, Paola!)