Floral Passione Explodes in Bucchianico

May 19, 2015 / Events
Bucchianico, Abruzzo

Floral eruption? Floral euphoria? An explosion of flowers? Floral delirium?

Futile attempts to describe Bucchianico’s chromatic splendor, la Ciammaichella procession on the Sunday preceding the Feast of Sant’Urbano (May 25th), patron saint of this tiny Abruzzo hill town. Over three hundred women in traditional medieval peasant dress – le pacchianelle – serpentine through the main piazza, each one with a hand on hip, the other gingerly balancing a basket filled with paper flower masterpieces of kaleidoscope colors on their head. (And the older women balance without the hands!) The women of the contrade surrounding Bucchianico – for this festival has rural roots – have been gathering nightly since early January, in groups of thirty or so, wide-eyed children at their feet as they deftly cut, braid, shred, twist, and snip rainbow colors of crepe paper to create their floral showpieces.

With pride, for Sant'Ubaldo-sm
OLDER WOMEN - no hands-sm

“And soon the children start imitating the floral creations of their mothers and grandmothers. That’s how I learned,” young Natascia told us the morning of the festival, proudly giving us a preview on her phone of the paper creation she’d lift to her head that afternoon, outfitted in medieval peasant dress: a huge basket of saffron yellow wild broom.

Never too young -sm
Flower-making starts early-sm

Natascia became our informal “guide” to Bucchianico’s Festa dei Banderesi that morning when we arrived at a three-level stuccoed yellow house not far from our B&B, where crepe paper bouquets were being loaded into a truck out front. Some would be carried on the heads of pacchianelle that afternoon, others would adorn the carri (literally, “carts” – i.e., floats) depicting rural life scenes – once pulled by oxen but now by floral-wreathed tractors – in the afternoon procession to the Church of Sant’Urbano, then into the main square for the gran finale, la Ciammaichella.

Bread carro with Natascia-sm
loading flowers-sm
Loading time-sm

This was the house of this year’s banderese (“knight who leads”), protector of the rural people in the contrade encircling Bucchianico during the Middle Ages and nowadays, the host (financially, too) of the astounding Festa dei Banderesi. That afternoon’s sfilata would be a pilgrimage lead by the Banderese family, bearing the sacred image of St. Urban and propitious offerings: the most prominent one, a huge Chianina calf decorated with a red and blue bow, colors of the Bucchianico flag (the calf will be butchered for the banquet for Sant’Urbano’s feast day).

Eggs will be carried in the procession-sm

That morning, a constant procession of rural neighbors flowed into the house of the banderese, to pay tribute to the statue of Sant’Urbano, ensconced for now in an altar made by the family, surrounded with paper flowers and baskets of eggs, sign of rural abundance. After filing past the sacred image, they kissed both cheeks of the banderese’s wife and sons, then pressed an envelope into his hands, a contribution to the festivities the banderese was hosting. As the banderese dropped the envelope into the box before Sant’Urbano, a relative nearby thanked each guest with a bag of the waffle-like canceletti cookies (over 3,000 of them baked by Franco’s family and relatives).

-Long live Urbano--sm
Natascia and Benedetta near the Sant'Urbano altar-sm
KISSES AND THEN sweets -sm
Sant'Urbano and box for offerings-sm
Benedetta, Franco, the BAnderese, Natascia, Pino with le cancellate-sm
le cancellate -sm

When an elderly white-mustached man in the traditional pacchianello (medieval peasant) red-bordered black vest and short-black pants hugged Franco, the banderese, tears started. Urbano (born on the Feast of Sant’Urbano, May 25th) lived nearby and had been a huge support to Franco in the organization of the Festa; moreover, he’d raised the calf, walking it weekly, rope through its nose ring, with drummers and a band playing nearby, prepping the calf for the upcoming afternoon procession where the cacophony of drums and bands (the men in the pacchianello dress) accompanied costumed folk dancers following the carri and the flower-crowned pacchianelle. I asked him how he felt about the post-festa butchering. He lowered his eyes and murmured, “Non ne parliamo.” (Let’s not talk about that.)

(Second half of the note here…)

Urbano with his equipment for the ox-sm
Teary FRanco with friend Urbano-sm


Anne Robichaud

by Anne Robichaud

An authorized Umbrian tour guide, Anne and her husband Pino worked the land for many years in the 1970’s so rural life, rural people, rural cuisine are una passione for her. See Umbria from “the inside”: join her May 2017 ten-day tour centered on discovering Umbria, Anne’s Umbria.

See www.annesitaly.com for more on her Umbria tours. Do see www.stayassisi.com for news on the Assisi apartment – and Assisi countryside guest house – she and Pino now rent out.

Anne writes frequently on Umbria and other areas of Italy. Read about her annual U.S. Feb/Mar cooking classes and lectures, as well as her numerous Italy insights on her blog.

16 Responses to “Floral Passione Explodes in Bucchianico”

  1. Janice Peters

    How lovely. Looks like something out of a movie set–amazing place!

  2. Kathy Kelsey

    Great photos Anne! This looks like so much fun, thanks for sharing!

  3. Being born in Crecchio, another beautiful medieval hilltop town in Abruzzi, this article holds a special place in my heart…grazie Love to see more of the Abruzzo region.

  4. Nancy Mazza

    WOW!! “Chromatic splendor”, indeed! So glad you got to experience this event and share the photos with us. Love Pino’s smile.

  5. S R Dozier

    Great job, Anne. These festivals are so special. Luco dei Marsi had something similar, with a different family responsible each year for baking enough bread (looked like pretzels but tasted like rich egg bread) for the entire town. Everyone contributed towards costs. Just amazing.

  6. Carol McCabe

    Beautiful article and photos of the Floral Passione Anne! Wish I was there with you!

  7. Judi Dalton

    Thanks for the great description, it sounds so fabulous.

  8. Wow! What inspiration….that the people of Italy continue to carry on the traditions of their culture, teaching each next generation the importance of history, of their land and their people. If only the US would treasure it’s history more….sad.
    Beautiful post Anne! Your words float on the paper and make us feel like we were there! How far is this from Assisi?

  9. David Fleming

    Yet another magnificent piece from Anne, highlighting the local passion of a special festa !! Excellent Pictures as well

  10. Lynn Cowhig

    Now this I would love to see! Anne has, once again, added to my bucket list which is already full of Umbrian delights!

  11. Mary Cappiello

    Anne—-this is another spectacular posting from you! You miraculously manage to find all the wonderful traditional village celebration times to tell us about, and your delightful pictures illustrate your article so well. We all want to be there the next time it they take place.

  12. Lina Falcone

    Grazie it’s beautiful I just got back from visiting Italy this reminds me of our holiday celebration in my town molise area Fossalto Prov, of Campobasso. The traditional costumes are beautiful. Grazie mille.

  13. marianna raccuglia

    Thank you, Anne for this interesting article. The photos are beautiful. Noticed that your Pino was in a photo-easy on the eyes! Tanti baci, Marianna

  14. Gull-Britt Lundsröm

    Love the note Anne! Nice to see both Pino and you in the pictures!


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