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.