Painted with petals

Among the more visually stunning events you could hope to experience is the Italian "manefestazione" know as an "infiorata." Literally an "enflowering," the events are held in towns throughout Italy nine weeks after Easter to commemorate Corpus Domini and occur when townspeople create floral carpets-some modest, some dazzlingly splendid-in front of their church. One of the most notable occurs in the Umbrian town of Spello, where there are said to be three kilometers of floral tapestries, and 80,000 people reportedly attended last year. (Given the width of the streets in a typical Italian hill town, it is not an event for those who need their space.) Although the preparation begins long before, the real work begins at midnight, when teams (rather like a krewe for Mardi Gras) trace their designs onto the street, lay in the outlines in dirt, and then fill them in with every manner of flower and petal (and, in some cases, whole fruit). When I arrived in Spello shortly after 8 a.m., finishing touches were still under way, which sometimes involved tweezers and sometimes required a gymnast's sense of balance. As the designs are completed, other team members constantly mist them from water tanks on their backs to "glue" the designs in place. Then, toward midday, there is a grand processional from the church, on those much-labored-over carpets. Truth be told, the parade tends to keep to the sides, and protective ropes are returned around the designs. But as they dry the petals begin to blow. You made need to repeat, as you look at these images, "They're all made of flowers."
One of the large floral carpets of Spello Italy's "infiorata."
The intricacy of some of the designs really is breath-taking.
Detail of the petals.
How the finishing touches are done.
Tweezers-and, surprisingly, paper clips-are required tools.
A touch of della Robbia.
The beginning of the end.

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