La Grande Passione dei Piccoli

May 13, 2014 / Events

Missing out on la passione, means missing the full Italian experience. La passione is in the Italian DNA. And that includes the children: their only “piccolo” aspect is size: their passione is GRANDE. From an early age.

Just watch the toddlers in tunics, tights, caps and muslin shirts – bambini medioevali – as they bounce into Assisi’s main square during the medieval May festival, Calendimaggio, beaming and waving chubby hands to the cheering crowds in the stands. They’ve already got the passione for all things medieval, absorbed from their parents.


xAfter months of preparation, Calendimaggio takes over this town for a three-day pageant of medieval music and theater, brought alive by all from young to the elderly.

Elegantly-dressed young donne nobili enter the main square with infants in their arms, young ones by the hand while the young drummers beat out their passione furiously. Small squires proudly hold the swords for their knights and street urchins in jute tunics herd geese in medieval market scenes.


In nearby Spello, another sort of passione reigns: a floral one. For Corpus Domini, Spellani of all ages create stunning flowering tapestries. For weeks prior, children and teens scramble hillsides gathering wildflowers for the infiorate and on the vigil of Corpus Domini, they too work all night on creating floral masterpieces.


In Narni, Renaissance passione unites all ages during la Corsa dell’Anello in mid-May. Although the little ones are not on horseback for this “Race of the Ring,” many parade solemnly in cumbersome velvet costumes in nighttime pageantry while others serve at the Renaissance banquets in the crowded taverne.


In late June, la passione medioevale peaks in Bevagna’s Mercato delle Gaite where even the little ones in itchy wool and hemp tunics (who feels the discomfort?), re-enact medieval artisan tasks.


And in Gubbio on May 15th – la Corsa dei Ceri – the reverence and passione for the Ceri are indescribable. All cheer the Ceri wildly during the runs, toddlers sitting on Papa‘s shoulders, shouting out the names of their favorite Cero. When the Ceri are at rest during a pause in the run, parents carry children in arms to the Ceri to kiss them. Children join the teen-agers and the adults dancing in piazze all over the town, from morning to late.


Last May 15th,  I joined hands with a group of six-year olds dancing in the piazza, one wearing a yellow satin shirt (Sant’Ubaldo supporter), another royal blue (San Giorgio), and a little one in black (Sant’Antonio), all linked in a circle. Lots of panting and laughter as the music ended. When I asked the children, “Which day is more important for you, Christmas or May 15th?”, no hesitation. A choral shout: “OGGI!”

After all, May 15th is Gubbio’s day of totale passione.


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 for more on her Umbria tours. Do see 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.

36 Responses to “La Grande Passione dei Piccoli”

  1. mary jane

    Thanks for this wonderful note and photos showing the spirit of Umbria and rural Italy. The costumes are so authentic: ties instead of buttons, Grazie, Anne.

  2. The photos tell the story however your additional descriptve commentary made it so much more enjoyable to read. Your storytelling is always so delightful and makes me miss Italy very much. Grazie!

  3. Paulette Carnicelli Pidcock

    Having experienced Calendimaggio with Anne in 2012, I can sincerely state that Anne’s enthusiasm, knowledge and energy are food for the soul…whether you are Italian (as I am) or not (sorry about that). I have toured with Anne in 2013 as well – in Perugia/Spoleto/Spello and highly recommend her if you are interested in enjoying the Umbrian countryside, its people, culture and of course its food and wine. Anne è il meglio!! Anne has also cooked in my home for the third year – in March, 2014. These cooking venues are ones where we always have the best food and the most fun!! Grazie mille Anne!

  4. These photos are wonderful! I hope to attend this festival in the future. Anne does a wonderful job as your personal tour guide in Assisi.

  5. lorraine rose

    for vicarious pleasure, there is absolutely nothing in the world better than your blog, Anne! I cannot believe I am lucky enough to join you in Spello!

  6. Rosemary

    I am thrilled to say that I have been to all of these festivals and loved every minute! Thanks for bring me back! Bellissimmi!

  7. Ginny Siggia

    La famiglia is everything — we see this over and over. I want to bring my grandson to Italy to reclaim his (1/2) heritage. He has the mandatory chubby hands and adores being carried around and laughs (a great belly-chuckle) at things that delight him.

  8. Yvonne

    One day I’ll have to return to Umbria to experience the festivals and all their pageantry. What a great article highlighting these traditions and how the families pass them on.

  9. John Perides

    We had the great pleasure to visit all of these Umbrian towns on our last visit in 2010. While we did not see the pageantry of these festivals we were impressed with the beauty and uniqueness of each town on an ordinary day. Thank you for filling in an important piece of information regarding the heart of the community in each place. It creates and even greater call to my heart to return. I’ll be back this fall with great expectations. Thanks, Anne.

  10. Barbara Colyar

    Looks like an amazing festival, Annie. Thanks for sharing this and all the wonderful photos. We will have to plan our holidays around this date in the future so we can see it in person. Looking forward to my visit to Italy in October.

  11. joel kaplan

    I am oohing and ahhing over all the festivals you describe and your information and descriptions bring it all so alive in full color. We are so very envious that you get to live there and be part of all this. AMAZING~!

  12. Wonderful article about two essential Italian characteristics: passion and their families. The Umbrian festivals are a wonderful way to highlight how they intersect

  13. Jane Ellis

    I was lucky enough to do a May festival tour with Anne in Assisi. Absolutely wonderful!!!

  14. i do LOVE Anne’s posts… feel as if you are right there in the crowd, seeing the colors, hearing the shouts and smelling the great food.

  15. How I would love to be at the flower festival! Even more so, in the wildflower fields! And sitting in that circle of women and the one small girl…what stories must have been told!
    And beause I was lucky enough to be at the Feast of St. Francis one yr….I SO know how much fun the festivals are!!
    That’s not Paoulo in that pic, is it??!!!!! Give him a big southern HIIII from me!
    (I still have the conversation on my phone of you and me and him talking southern! hahahahha,,,makes me smile big time!)

  16. Anita Fiorini

    This is a wonderful article, oh how I would love to go there. It reminds me of
    the 1930 and 1940s when we all sat around and enjoyed our family. I miss
    that so much. Thank you for this great article, I will pass it on.

  17. Lucy Smith

    What a fabulous event, great article, and WONDERFUL photos! thank you, Anne!

  18. Sandi Spector

    Another wonderful article. Annie should write a book, or just a collection of these articles. It definitely makes me want to come back to Umbria & your with Annie again and again.
    Enjoy Gubbio tomorrow 5/15, and write more- Please!!

  19. Jan Johnson

    Another wonderful article which takes you right there. Isn’t it delightful to see all the generations having fun together and taking pride in their heritage. More please Annie!!

  20. Katie Balestreri

    It’s so wonderful to see the traditions being passed to the next generation! Thank you for sharing these wonderful photos and stories. We were recently in Modica, Sicily where we experienced the Festa di San Giorgio. The celebration begins with groups of little kids carrying the mini-image ( “simulacra” ) of the saint through the streets of upper Modica. We love your postings, Anne, and look forward to more.

  21. don k

    The passing of pasione is what keeps Italy as such an inviting place to visit year after year. There is so much richness to delve into. Thank you Annie for reminding me of that. Wish I had time this year to delve into a new corner with you!

  22. Katie Larsh

    Thanks again Annie, for a wonderful intro into the May festivals in your beautiful country! I love all the photos and explanations of the festivals. Would love to plan our next visit in May!!! See you in September!

  23. This is so wonderful on so many levels, Anne! What a gift it is to live there. We cannot wait to see you and to be back under the UMBRIAN sun in a few weeks. We will just be 9 people, because my mother-in-law had a fall and broke her arm and is virtually immobile, with a bad knee, as well. We’ll have to enjoy the trip for her, as well!

  24. Joseph DeRuyter

    Having visited all of these places last spring, and taking part in the festivals, I am very much there in spirit this spring. As you know, Anne, the “passione” came alive for me in Gubbio…..and Assisi e’ sempre nel mio coure! Thanks for the great pictures!

  25. Ginny Mentel

    Though we will miss Le Passione this year, we hope to do it with you next year! Looking forward, Anne, to seeing you in Spello in June.

  26. Thank you for the beautiful pictures and the detailed explanations! Such Passion of the people. I always feel like I’m there after reading your articles…wish I was!

  27. Stephanie

    Well, as has been repeated in just about every post prior to mine, this article is wonderful! Your pictures capture so much of the spirit of the people who call the region of Umbria their home. What an exciting time of year! I hope to visit sometime during May and get in on all the celebrating. One of the things your pictures reveal so beautifully is the spirit of family and community. All these special festivals just seem to bring everyone together to celebrate their history and encourage the next generation to pass it on. Thank you again, Anne, for helping those of us in US to enjoy a vicarious pleasure thru you.

  28. Jennifer Erdmanis

    Thank you Anne for the wonderful descriptions and photographs of a truly wonderful passionate festival. I especially loved the Floral arrangements in Spello. Juris and I are looking forward to discovering these magical mediaeval towns with you in September. Buonasera from us ,although I think that it is Buongiorno in Assisi at this time. Ciao from Jennifer.

  29. Carol Francis

    My husband and I greatly look forward to every new posting from Anne. They are always fascinating glimpses into the heart of Italy. well written and photographed, pure joy. We look forward to exploring Umbria and Tuscany with you!

  30. Louise Montalbano

    It is so wonderful that these traditions are not only being passed down to the younger generations but they are keeping them alive by all the participation. Anne it is your “passione” that keeps it alive for all of us who couldn’t be there in person through your wonderful photos and your fantastic descriptive writing. But we we will be there soon to join you and express our passione for these traditions and all that is Italian that we love so much.

  31. Marianna Raccuglia

    Boo Hoo! Love the article and photos – You make everything come alive
    Con amore e tanti baci


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