Spellbound in Spello

March 29, 2012 / Events
Spello, Umbria
“Bello Spello, vero?”, an elderly woman asks me as she polishes her brass doorknob to a gleam. Above her head, fiery red geraniums and hot pink petunias overflow in chromatic profusion from terracotta flower pots hanging on the stone wall of her house. I thought she might win the “Finestre, Balconi e Vicoli Fioriti” (Flowered windows, balconies and alleyways) contest – until I saw Attilio’s courtyard.

Every day, stonemason Attilio returns hot and sweaty from work and after a quick shower, spends hours in his courtyard tending the 120 flower pots hanging on the pink limestone wall.of his courtyard. On a recent Spello stroll, I asked him “Why all the hours after a hard day’s work?” “Passione“, he replied with a shrug and a smile as he pointed to his handmade sign: “Respect the flowers and do not touch with your hands. I am very jealous (as in “hyper-protective”!) of them – and they are delicate”.

Spello’s floral passione comes to culmination each year with the magnificent flower petal tapestries of the Infiorate for Corpus Domini (60 days after Easter, info here and here), but not only. During the weeks leading up to it, windowboxes, wrought iron balconies and Spello’s winding medieval alleyways erupt in floral profusion: the contest is on.

The winner of each category – window, balcony, alleyway – is chosen on the Sunday prior to the Infiorata, based on the following criteria: combination of colors, healthy aspect of the flowers throughout the duration of the competition (a few weeks), originality of composition, incorporation of the beauty of typical architectural elements of medieval Spello and the harmonious inclusion of the urban context and surrounding landscape.

Although he has won twice in the past, Attilio did not win in 2011, I hear. This year? Head up to Spello during the week or two prior to the Infiorata itself – and prepared to be SPELLbound.

(9th & 10th June, 2012! Official site for Spello’s Infiorata here.)

Spello - floral profusion in the alleyways
Spello - incorporating architecture into floral context
Barbara, 90 years - proud Spellana
Spello courtyard - with hanging plants
Spello contest  - floral health and color varieties count
Spello floral alleyway

Spello - pink limestone medieval gem

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.

28 Responses to “Spellbound in Spello”

  1. Taube Ponce

    Thank you for sharing such beauty and such appreciation for the joys of life and nature!

  2. Brian McHugh

    My partner and I were in Spello when we were last in Umbria (staying at the wonderful Brigolante!). We saw all those lovely flowers and lanes, and walked the upper village … constantly saying, “Oh, if we only had the money to buy one of these wonderful flats and spend a couple of months here each year!” Thanks for the memories!

  3. Giuseppe Spano
    Giuseppe Spano

    The glimpse of that beautiful place was wonderful to see again. Yet you must go to see the entire town and it’s surrounding beauty
    Thank you

  4. Judith Kraft O'Conno

    Hands down my favorite place in Italy…there was a charming Inn nearbythat I think was once a mill…anyone know the name?

  5. Jack Litewka

    Oh, Spello!!! I remember our tour there with you. Such a special place.

  6. Patricia Sandler

    We spent almost two weeks at Casa Belvedere with Sig.ra Mariuccia. It was enchanting. We used Spello as a base to see the surrounding hill towns, including, Assisi. Mi ci trovo bene a Spello. I felt great being there. It was one our favorite trips to Italy. I helped the proprietor with her gardening. We left right before l’Infiorata, but I guess the town would be packed at that time. We shopped at a supermercato at the bottom of the hill. Each cut of meat was labeled with the name of the farm in which the animal was raised. The vegetables were all the freshest. I realized that you had to get down there early; otherwise, there would be nothing left. Spello is filled with enchanting alleys and secret gardens. It is truly a paradise on earth.

  7. (I discovered castagna honey in Spello, and have been a fan ever since.) The exterior of every home is lovely. Even the tiniest stairs and patio have beautiful flowers. I wish I could have photographed every block of stone and every patio and every flower.

  8. I can relate to the “Passionne,”
    My father was a stone mason ,and he would come home from work and spend all his free time in the flower,fruit and veggie gardens.
    Nice memories of my childhood.
    Nostalgia,seeing these beautiful

  9. I remember touring Spello in October and seeing the green balconies. How I wish to visit Spello in the Spring and Summer when the flowers are in their true brilliance. I plan to visit Spello this fall but alas no colorful balconies but the charm of the town more than makes up for it.

  10. Our day trip to Spello was one of my favorites! You can walk up the hill and thru the town many times and see different things each time. The pots of flowers inspired me so that when I came home I bought over 100 geranium plants and many pots for my deck and patio. Unfortunately in Seattle we can’t winter over the plants but every spring I buy more trying to create the feeling of Spello! Hope to return soon!

  11. This looks fantastic. Thank you. I can’t wait to come to Italy and take a longer class in person with you. When you came to Seattle last month for a day class, I had a blast and learned a TON. Thank you again!

  12. Anne Robichaud

    Thanks to all for your notes and Judith, La Bastiglia was once in the location of the 17th c-Spello olive oil mill – in the upper part of the town.
    Now a hotel.

  13. I so look forward to Anne’s postings – so informative(Makes me want to be there), photos are beautiful – Thank you, Anne.

    I was so happy to have met you at a cooking class on 3/21. Your passion for food and family matched my values. Now I wish I had your energy!! Mille grazie e ci vediamo. Marianna

  14. We will be walking through the Umbria area in October. Spending some time at Brigolante, staying a few nights at La Bastiglia. Guess we won’t see these beautiful floral displays, but will imagine them among the greenery! Thanks for the wonderful previews and reviews!

  15. In bocca al lupo, Attilio! And thanks for the wonderful post, Anne!

  16. Matthew

    Sweet piece! It was so good to see you for our cooking class here in NYC last week, Annie – everyone had such a great time. Can’t wait to catch up with you again when we’re in Umbria June 16-23!

  17. I love all of Anne’s wonderful stories and eagerly wait for more! I enjoyed attending her cooking class on LI, so happy to finally meet Anne and look forward to taking her Umbria tour in June. Love you, Anne!

  18. Barbara

    Loved our two days of touring with you back in ’10 – and LOVED Spello – as I enjoy each day of Anne’s Italy, I am counting down until we return to Cortona for a month this summer. Studying my Italian I hope to be able to blend in with the locals by then!

  19. Rande Shaffer

    Just need to mention what a wondrous cooking event we had with you on Valentine’s Day! Your recipes are fabulous and continue to be a hit with everyone. Looking forward to a repeat event next year!

    Grazie Mille!!


  20. What a special memory, walking around Spello with Anne as she pointed out the beautiful flowers cascading from all the homes! It was like walking around in a fairy tale. And the fabulous winetasting/lunch we had in Spello was also a highlight of my trip.

  21. Kay Brown

    Anne, I so enjoyed meeting you at the class last Monday. I loved the bit on Spello, but have never been there in the spring – maybe next year.

  22. Angela Melczer

    Bellisimo! Beautifully written and photographed. Makes we want to be there right now!

  23. My family toured with Anne in May of 2011 – what an amazing experience! Small towns in Umbria like Spello are hidden gems in Italy that should be experience with Anne as a guide!

  24. Francesca

    Spello and the different flowered balconies are very beautiful! I really love the infiorata, it’s amazing what can be done with petals.

  25. Joyce McCarthy

    Annie, thank you so much for the tour of the Basilica and Assisi. And most of all, thanks for the very delicious lunch that you prepared for our group at your farmhouse. Your article on Spello was very nicely written, and the pictures beautiful. Although we only briefly passed through on this trip, hopefully we’ll spend more time there next time.


Leave a Reply