It's that time of year! Late April through May or June, when many old villages in the Italian countryside, and throughout the Christian world, suddenly burst with technicolor. These "infiorate" - sometimes referred to as Corpus Christi Carpets - are liturgical celebrations of the Corpus Domini.
The Corpus Domini is a Catholic festival with processions and rich spiritual representations that take place on the streets of Italian towns. The Blessed Sacrament (Eucharist) is placed in an open or transparent religious vessel and held aloft by a member of the clergy during the procession. The beautiful flower carpets animate historical centres giving a distinctive mark to the solemnity. Afterwards parishioners return to the church for benediction.
The most impressive Flower Carpets [Infiorate] in Lazio
Vignanello will be holding their "Festa del Fiore" on Saturday 28th April.
Itri - 31st May
Bolsena - Sunday 3rd June at 09:00
Genzano di Roma - 9th -11th June is the most famous of the Lazio region
Alatri - as far as I can tell the date will be Sunday 3rd June. In the past their Infiorata has entered the Guinness Book of Records for being the largest in the world.
Casamari Abbey near Veroli also Sunday 3rd June might be worth a look.
Tarquinia usually has a nice Infiorata but dates for 2018 to be confirmed.
Other flower festivals
Priverno - Saturday 28th & Sunday 29th April. Not an "infiorata" but staying with the flower theme this is a Camilla flower show which will take place in the old part of Priverno (province of Latina) with stalls, events, artistic displays and a competition for the most beautiful balcony.
Vitorchiano Peony Gardens - are late blooming this year on account of the colder weather but they should be bursting with colour mid-April, lasting throughout May, June and most of the Summer.
Some of the plants chosen for their particular coloured petals, berries or seeds: Acacia, Carnations, Camellia, Cyclamen, Chrysanthemum, Crocus, Dahlia, Gerbera, Hibiscus, Lotus, Iris, Ivy, Mimosa, Narcissus, Orchid, Poppy, Petunia, Primula, Roses, Tulips, Valerian.
Papal Audiences take place 10:00 hrs, every Wednesday morning in St. Peter's Square. In Winter - or during extreme bad weather - the Audience is usually moved inside the Aula Nervi. The Audience lasts approx. 2 hours.
Official Vatican site
For more information contact Prefecture of the Papal Household:
Prefecture of the Papal Household
00120 Vatican City State
Fax: +39 06 6988 5863
At one time paper tickets were posted to overseas and out-of-Rome addresses, but this service seems to no longer be provided.
If you didn't reserve tickets in advance and your group is less than 10, you can try anyway on the morning (8am-10am), or the previous afternoon (3pm-7pm / until 6pm in winter).
Tickets are issued 'free of charge' by the Vatican State and the procedure is as follows: download + fax the request form on the Official Vatican site, for those requesting tickets from out-of-Rome or overseas. You will be informed - by letter - whether or not tickets have been reserved for you, but they are only issued one day prior to each Audience, so you still need to be in Rome the day before (or prepare yourself for a very early start on the morning of the Audience) to collect your tickets.
Tickets are held under the name of the person who reserved them so that person will need to collect the tickets and provide the letter that was sent and possibly proof of identity. Plan of the Vatican buildings - on the purple & white map, see No.1 (where the huge Bronze doors are) and No.61 (Aula Nervi, also known as Aula Paolo VI, where indoor Audiences are held).
If you are in Rome for Easter or Christmas you might wish to attend Easter Eve Mass or Christmas Eve Mass, both held in St. Peter's Square. Tickets are free-of-charge but availability is limited and, therefore, best to book these 2-6 months in advance. If your request is successful your tickets will be ready for collection from the Vatican 4-5 days before the event.
It's difficult to judge exactly how busy any Audience or Mass will be. We have known people queue for 2 hours before getting inside and others who have strolled in with hardly any queues at all, but we would always urge visitors to leave themselves ample time just to avoid disappointment.
Here are the most special and unique places to celebrate Christmas Mass over the festive period.
Pantheon (Basilica of Santa Maria ad Martyrs)
24th Dec - Christmas Eve Mass starts at 23.55.
Mix the flour, sugar, eggs and butter all together into a dough and shape into a ball.
Roll out the dough to 2mm thinkness and approx sized strips of 5 x 10 cm.
Next using the cutting wheel, 2 parallel incisions down the centre and then fry in the oil (which has been brough up tp frying temperature - 170°c - 180°c.) and remove when golden in colour.
Lay the fried frappe onto absorbent kitchen paper and sprinkle with extra sugar whilst still hot!
Serve when cooled!
PIZZA DI PASQUA (Roman Easter Pizza)
The correct full name is Pizza Cresciuta di Pasqua.
500g plain flour (either all tipo '0' or 300g '0' + 200g Manitoba flour)
4 medium eggs
30-35g of fresh yeast
a pinch of salt
additional aromas which you can add to your taste: grated lemon or orange zest from 1 lemon or 1 orange; 1 dessert spoon ground cinnamon - or to taste; 1 tsp Nutmeg - or to taste
Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl, cover with a cloth and leave to rise for 5 hours.
Once the dough has risen, remove from the bowl and transfer to a baking tin in a nice vase shape (size in cm: 12h x 16 bottom dia x 21 top dia) and bake at 180°c for 45 minutes. The result should be similar in shape and texture to a sponge cake/bread. Unlike savoury pizzas this one is traditionally eaten cold as a starter at Easter lunch, usually accompanied by salami or hard boiled eggs. However - we have ours at Easter breakfast with coffee or hot chocolate!
1 ltr of sunflower oil for frying
300g plain flour
50g of sugar (normal white granulated)
2 whole medium-sized eggs
100g butter (unsalted)
optional lemon zest
A scalopped cutting wheel
A rolling pin and pastry board
...JULIUS CAESAR IS ASSASSINATED!
Reenacted by the Gruppo Storico Romano at Largo del Torre Argentina, Rome 2013 - as close as allowed to the original murder site. Caesar, according to history, was stabbed 23 times by senators during an assembly in the Curia of Pompey's Theatre (now ruins) on 15 March 44 B.C.
At the time of Caesar this area was known as Campo Marzio and didn't take the name Largo del Torre Argentina until the 15th Century when a fellow from Strasbourg built a villa with large tower on this site - the explanation of this is that Strasbourg in Latin was Argentoratum and he was referred to by locals as "Argentoratina". This original tower and building still exist and are visible, but having been both damaged and developed over time they now blend with surrounding buildings. The more noticable tower in the area is the Medieval Torre del Papito (Tower of the Little Pope). However, it is most probably named after the family who owned it: the Papareschi, and not, as was first thought, that it was named after the Antipope Anacletus II, who was short in stature.
So, what exactly are the Ides of March? Well, the Ides (lat. Idus Martii or Idus Martiae) was a day on the Roman calendar corresponding to 15th March, which was a day of religious observances but mostly notable as a deadline for settling debts - poor old Julius Caesar made the date notorius when he was brutally stabbed to death on 15 March in 44 BC, which in turn set off a chain of events marking a change in history - the period known as the Roman Republic would transition into the Roman Empire. Some citizens were pleased, others were not; but history had struck a new course!
The History of Rome Carnival - the Roman Carnival began in the Middle Ages and reached its height after the election of Pope Paul III, and, after the transfer of the Papal Residence at Palazzo Venezia, most of the carnival celebrations woud take place in the Historical Centre on Via Lata (now known as Via del Corso).
The Commedia dell'arte, mask parades, games in the main squares, carnival floats, jousting & tournaments, the highly anticipated Berber horse races and the “moccoletti” attracted the entire city's inhabitants, and pilgrims and curious folk from around the known world (at that time such far flung places as Australia were only just being discovered). With the arrival of the House of Savoy in Rome in 1870, the Carnival began to decline, especially because of the many incidents that occurred during the games and the many people who were injured.
The Carnival of Rome took place in Piazza Navona, where recreational performances and fireworks were organised. Piazza del Popolo was the starting point of the most important event of the Carnival: the Berber horse races which ran along Via del Corso and ended at Piazza Venezia.
Today events are a little different, usually with an opening parade in Piazza del Popolo passing through Via Ripetta and Via del Corso, a stage with various perfomers and street artists in Piazza Navona, a Renaissance equestrian show in costume and Baroque fireworks in Piazza del Popolo.
CARNIVALS AROUND LAZIO
We have picked out the largest and most creative carnivals from around the Lazio region.
RONCIGLIONE - VITERBO
Carnival of Ronciglione
At the foot of the Cimini Mountains, in the heart of Tuscia, is a village full of surprises, among the oldest and most famous of Italy, with origins dating back to the Roman Carnival. Following centuries of the carnival being forbidden, Rociglione reintroduced it in the Renaissance-Baroque period (16th & 17th centuries) and has continued ever since, right up to present day. Masked groups, floats, the town band, majorettes, hussars and the cavalry color and enliven the streetscape of Ronciglione.
ACQUAPENDENTE - VITERBO
Carnevale di Acquapendente
Parades of floats and masked groups are held during the last two Sundays of carnival, and after the last parade of Mardi Gras is the burning of Carnevalaccio. At sunset everyone meets in the main square for the burning of the effigy, which represents the Carnival spirit; a pagan custom symbolising purification, leading us - through fire - to the period of Lent.
CIVITA CASTELLANA - VITERBO
Parade of floats and masked groups celebrate the Mardi Gras and the burning of the famous "Puccio" the great paper mache totem representing "Carnival King" with music, dancing and bedlam performed by costumed and masked figures. The Carnival of Civita Castellana is rooted in the ancient past, dating back to the pre-Roman Faliscan civilization.
CANEPINA - VITERBO
Parade of floats pass through the streets of the town, arriving at Piazzale I Maggio where a totem of King Carnival "O puppet" will be burned.
SUTRI - ROMA
Antico Carnevale Sutrino
For five days there are alternating parades, games and dancing in the square as well as masquerades and dances until the conclusion of the festivities on the evening of Shrove Tuesday with the extraordinary spectacle of the burning of King Carnival. A long procession of masks and screaming crowd accompanies Carnival King lying on a bier in the last joyful journey that ends in the town square, where he is burned. Around the bonfire crowd indulges in frenetic dancing to the sound of hypnotic wild music.
LATINA - various towns
Il Carnevale Pontino (divided between the towns below)
The Pontine Carnival is held in agreement between the towns of Sabaudia, Pontinia, San Felice Circeo and Terracina. The event represents a moment of strong aggregation of the towns ensuring the conservation of good, healthy folk traditions. Parade floats pass through towns and villages of the whole district.
The "radeca" or agave festival takes place during 'carnival time in Frosinone, and was originally an ancient pagan fertility festival - the agave leaf (due to its shape and size) was a symbol for the male reproductive parts, but the festival morphed into a more important celebration of the heroic revolt by the city’s inhabitants against the French occupation in 1798 - 1799. A protagonist of the episode was the famous French general Jean Antoine Étienne Vachier, known as Championnet.
In the photos (pictured) is a puppet of the French General and his likeness in a painting (taken from Wikipedia).
A previous French General - a horrible man, called Giraban - took awful revenge on local rebels after this initial rebellion by sacking the city, killing innocents and wreaking havoc damaging buildings and churches.
The following year, despite these despicable acts, the locals of Frosinone still felt they wanted to celebrate their Radeca Carnival, but (as a bit of a joke) sent out a message to the newly posted general (Campionnet) that they were organising another revolt. Champoinnet, who was based in Anagni, gathered his troops and set off for Frosinone but when he arrived, instead of finding angry pesants ready for a battle, he found them enjoying their festival. He was both shocked and amused, but mostly amused, and threw himself whole-heartedly into the festivities. He and his soldiers got wonderfully drunk and had a jolly time and it is this day in history that the Radeca reproduces: the arrival of the General in his coach, and ensuing revelries!
This unusual and unique festival takes place on Shrove Tuesday which, this year, falls on 27th Feb.
The merry procession is preceded by a wagon carrying a barrel of wine. Just after that the groups of "radicari" (agave leaf holders), arrive, who are the heart of the parade, followed by a representative of the municipal administration carrying the city standard. Then comes the band, uninterruptedly playing the Carnival song, and finally a wagon drawn by four horses bearing the “rubicund” (ruddy-faced) General Championnet holding his huge belly with one hand and waving to the crowd with the other. Each year a new 'General' is chosen from among the locals.
Most of the participants wave the "radeca" (agave leaf), and some raise up a cauliflower (pantanari), an ancient sign of the peasantry. Bearing these “weapons” they dance to a song that starts out slowly, recalling the injustices suffered and the oppression of the people, which then speeds up in the merrier second part to celebrate the recovery of freedoms. In this more lively phase, the agave-holders and the cauliflower-holders burst into a wild hopping dance, forming various circles, and crying out together: "esseglie', esseglie', esseglie'!" which - in local dialect - means 'he's coming' or 'he's here'.
During the parade, certain rules must be adhered to: they must have an agave leaf, otherwise the violator has to bend over and undergo a certain number of agave-strokes (a whipping). At your first ever Radeca festival you must undergo an initiation which consistes of a light whipping on your shoulders - but only in fun!
If you read our entry on FROSINONE you will see how ill-fated this city seems - having been the target of many attacks through the centuries and having suffered several major earthquakes.
WE THINK NEMI IS THE PRETTIEST VILLAGE OF THE CASTELLI ROMANI.
Located south-east of Rome in the Castelli Romani with an interesting ancient history....and we certainly never tire of eating the scrumptous Wild Strawberry Tarts! Even the colours of the village housing and shops are pink!
Not forgetting the magnificent views of the Lake Nemi which is spectacular in the Summer. Other local specialities here are wild boar and porcini mushrooms.
Groups, including Roman Legions, Barbarians, Gauls, etc...travel from all over the world to take part in processions, battle reenactments, gladiatorial combat and artistic historical interpretations throughout this unique day.
In all there are approximately 2000 participants from circa 53 associations in attendance. The event is free of charge and takes place in Circus Maximus and in the area around the Coliseum.
The event is organised by the Gruppo Storico Romano, who have been amazing at co-ordinating the event for the past 11 years, together with co-operation from the local council (Comune di Roma).
Here are a few photos to whet your appetite ready for the next one.....starting inside the arena at Circus Maximus, processions from there to Coliseum and finally back to Circus Maximus for combat and other performances....
CHESTNUTS & HAZELNUTS – THAT'S WHAT THE SORIANO TERRITORY IS ABOUT.
We took a drive up there the other day as amazingly we’d never stopped properly to have a look.
And we LOVED it!
Snuggled at the foot of the Cimini Mountains at the modest height of circa 500 mtrs asl, the town of Soriano nel Cimino looks like a nativity. With friendly folk, wonderful smells of wood smoke and amazing 360° views!
We were visiting the area during the annual Chestnut Festival and earlier in the month they’d held their annual “Palio of the Rings” where the 4 Rioni (districts) of Soriano compete with each other, first on horseback, where they have to get a type of jousting stick through a series of small metal hanging hoops, then in an archery tournament. This year's winner was Rione Papacqua (pictured above).
The whole town gets a Medieval make-over (the locals and the buildings) – we wish it could stay like this all year round but I suppose it will come down in the next few days, until next year.
I was puzzled by symbols and mention of Saint George everywhere – lots of Saint George-looking flags and a few dragons - even one of the 'Rione' is named after him! But some jolly old men of the village took time to explain to us that Saint George’s presence here is most likely legend, probably built around a metaphor for ‘good against evil’ (Saint George against his dragon) but there is an old tiny church dedicated to him, thought to have been built around 11th c. AD, pictured below, and whether he was really here or not, it made me feel at home!
And to round off - a couple of shots of the castle: Castello Orsini....which, until the 1980's, was being used as a very grim prison.