Carpet of flowers

Ready, steady… go!

Dozens of kids are running down the hill from Santa Maria della Cima Church along via Belardi.

They are stamping purposefully on a massive array of flowers with their big smiles and happy faces, unravelling the beautiful images that were laid down only a few days before.

No, the trampling race is not the mischief of young adults, but the official ending of a 200-year-old religious tradition that every year transforms the centre of the Italian town of Genzano.

It takes place on the Monday evening after the Corpus Domini celebration has ended.

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At roughly 17 miles from the capital, on the Appian Way, Genzano is one of the Castelli Romani (Roman Castels), a group of municipalities particularly famous for vineyards and volcanic lakes.

It is close to one of the two volcanic lakes, Nemi, that every year in June the Infiorata takes place. The name comes from fiore (Italian for ‘flower’) and is a traditional community celebration that has run officially since 1778, but probably started much earlier, during which the surface of the central road of Genzano is decorated with tons of flower petals.



An astonishing number of flowers is used to cover an area of almost 2,000 square metres: 350,000 flowers of twenty different varieties, to be precise, are used to ‘paint’ thirteen religious images onto the cobblestones of the long street.

Broom flowers bring the yellow colors, wild fennel and boxwood provide the green, and the jagged shapes of the carnations come in different tonalities and add many more colors to the palette. A selection of roses also contributes to the beauty of the final artwork with not only their shades and nuances but also their soothing smell.

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Although this majestic work is named after flowers, many other natural materials also contribute to the remarkable visual effect. Leaves, black vines, soil, pine bark, maize, wheat, soya, and even chilli peppers and oregano are part of the ‘recipe’; rice and coffee provide the blacks and the whites while including additional textures to these unique artworks. All the materials are arranged with mastery by expert florists, following ancient techniques.



This year Genzano celebrated the 245th Anniversary of the Infiorata, between 10 and 12 June. However, the two colorful days are the result of year-long community work. The infiorata found its origins in the tradition of distributing petals flowers in front of houses, but it is only since 1875 that the whole community has been fully engaged and involved in the preparation and process.

community members at work with the expert florists

From July to October the plant materials are chosen and the dates for the following year established. In December, the theme is chosen and then a drawing is prepared and finalised. In April the flower and natural materials are prepared and counted. Finally, in June—a couple of weeks from the day—the ‘colors’ are prepared. Men, women and children alike will get involved in the flower ‘stripping’, when the petals are separated from the flower stems, and grouped by color, texture and size. They will then be safely stored in dark, cool caves underneath the town.


On the Friday before the festivities, the street surface is prepared, and the final drawings are made directly onto it. The detailed flower arrangement starts on the Saturday evening and ends late on Sunday afternoon when the procession will bring everyone together to honor the Lord and also to celebrate each other’s participation and effort.


So, what looks like a work of devastation by the energetic feet of the youngsters can also be seen as part of the endless cycle of apparent endings and new beginnings. Celebrating life, nature and a strong sense of community.

The joy of the kids playing around and throwing the colorful petals in the air is contagious and you shouldn’t be surprised if you end up playing with them in a waterfall of colors and waves of laughter.


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Words by Elisa Spampinato


Photo credits
All the pictures @Storywalking