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Calendimaggio:A spring festival of Assisi

Calendimaggio in Assisi
Inside the tavern. Smiley local people.

Calendimaggio in Assisi
Preparation of the evening part.

Calendimaggio in Assisi
All excited and put out flags. Waiting for the start of three days.

Calendimaggio in Assisi
Soldiers with spears and shields. Women's costumes are great, too.

Calendimaggio in Assisi
Main characters dressed in colorful costumes.

Calendimaggio in Assisi
Flower dance that shows the spring is coming.

Calendimaggio in Assisi
Tree with the bread!?

Calendimaggio in Assisi
Antique Porchetta stand (reproduced).

Calendimaggio in Assisi
The Italians would look good in gorgeous dresses nicely.

Calendimaggio in Assisi
Youngs with fire swords.

Calendimaggio in Assisi
Cleric or scholar costume?

Calendimaggio in Assisi
Women carrying the hat of basket. It is unique.

Calendimaggio in Assisi
Peculiar dyers.

Calendimaggio in Assisi
Angel of the night parade in a mysterious atmosphere.

Recommend: 5 stars

Held every May, the biggest festival in Assisi. The inhabitants of Assisi spent a year preparing for this festival. Residents are dressed in medieval costumes and of all ages. The parades and shows will be held. The beauty of the night parade is outstanding.

Traditional Spring Festival represents the historical town of Assisi

Calendimaggio is a public festival held in May. "Calendi" means day and "maggio" means may, the name joined together. It will last three days from Thursday to Saturday of the first week of May. The date changes every year. Assisani (the residents of Assisi) will spend a year preparing for this festival. During this period, the residents are dressed in medieval costumes here and there. People come here all over Italy and greet each other on the street.

In the old medieval time, the town of Assisi was divided in two parts called the upper (sopra) and lower (sotto) by the opposite parties. Even though the two parties reached an agreement in the beginning of spring, then the battles unexpectedly started again. This episode has been reproduced into dramas and dances of Calendimaggio. In 1926, singing and playing mandolin and guitar has been a tradition held on April 30th to May 1st. After the interruption by World War II the festival was held again in spring 1946 in a more modern way. In 1952, however, an effort was made to recover the previous costumes and music of the 13th century, including the reproduction of the conflict between the town. The upper part of the town from Piazza del Comune to the church of St. Clare has blue symbol colour and the lower part from Piazza del Comune to St. Francis Church has red color.

Best time starts at the end of April!

Many pre-events start one week before the Calendimaggio. The town is usually quiet but the enthusiasm begins little by little. The houses start to raise colorful flags outside. Main events are held usually in the evening in the Piazza del Comune or in front of St. Clare Church. During this week there are still not many tourists, so you can fully enjoy the festival's atmosphere. If you can't get a ticket of Calendimaggio, please don't give up and try to go one week before. Theaters and dialogues by dressed people are also presented.

During this period all events can be seen with no fence like street shows. It' a strange scene of the residents who finish the shopping and preparing dinner normally and of the people in extraordinary brilliant costumes. Several times during the day and evening it's possible to see drum parades on the street.

Plus it's also recommended to eat at an instant tavern and shop of Porchetta. These food shops are limited only this period, at the end of April. The tavern is opened at right end of the Piazza del Comune. You can find its sign soon. Before you have to choose your dishes and pay at the counter. After receiving the receipt, just wait at the table of your number! I ordered wide noodle Pappardelle with a sauce of wild pork (5 euros) and pastries (1.5 euros).

It's a valuable experience to eat with the locals at a table in cave-like interior.
On the other side, a shop of Porchetta is opened in the street of St. Francis. It's very attractive that seller's calling voice and a grilled entire pig. This is one of the famous Italian cuisines! It's also reasonable price as well as the tavern. Many people ask to take away. If you ask red wine, they can put it in an empty PET bottle. The small shop has a medieval armor as ornament. It's also possible to watch the short film of festival's history on a small screen.

To enjoy the festival more cleverly...

During three days of the festival, on the square stepped seats are set to make it possible to see the entire show. However, it's obligate to purchase tickets in advance. Without the ticket you cannot see events in the evening, neither. Tickets are sold in the ticket office next to Piazza del Comune, in via Mazzini but normally all of tickets become sold out a few days before.

The regulation of traffic starts around 2:30 in the afternoon. The street leading to the square become totally closed so you can't pass through this area without tickets!!

It would be a good idea to keep a bottle of drinking water because the area becomes full of heat. There are opened some mini-markets around town. Around half past six in the evening, the Day part of festival is ended and the traffic regulation becomes solved. Everyone goes to eat at once at the same time. If you want to eat in a restaurant it should be better to reserve in advance. Most of restaurants and trattorias with a good atmosphere and reasonable prices become crowded soon.

You can get the program of Calendimaggio in advance at the information center in the commune square. During the events, the Information Center itself become closed so be careful. Regarding Hotels, in this period the average of each hotel's fee become more expensive. Plus many hotels become full soon so early booking would be essential. There are some hotels around the railway station or the area of Santa Maria degli Angeli, under the hill of Assisi. However, buses from the train station to the center of Assisi finish nearly nine o'clock at night. So to see also the Night part of the festival, you have to find a hotel inside the Assisi in any way!

By the way, you can ride on these buses at the square of St. Peter under the Basilica of St. Francis or at the square of Piazza Matterhorn near the Basilica of St. Rufino. Each bus passes every 30 minutes, and it takes 10 minutes to the station. (5,30 - 22,30, 0.9 euros (June 2009)). You can buy tickets at tabacco shops or the train station.

Long-awaited first day of the festival

At 3:00 pm on the first day of the festival's, finally the main event starts with the sounds of the bells!! Everyone rise voice when one man in a ragged cloth informed the start of the festival by reading a poet. On this day most of main events are held like parades, the Palio (a crossbow contest). They are very spectacle.

From half-past nine the Night Part "Rievocazione di vita medievale" is starting. It's a reproduction event of medieval life. Many people in medieval costumes recreate daily life in the epoc. Candles are placed on the streets and cloths are dangled from the eaves... You can enjoy time slip to the medieval!! Assisi conserves old stone streets very well so it's suitable to simulate.

The first day is a day of "sopra" district. Their reproduction will be compared with the one of the "sotto" district, held on the next day. Without a ticket it's impossible to enter but a big screen is set up in the Piazza del Comune to see events. You can see also the preparations of the festival. During the festival, everyone is walking out till late and the town seems much more lively than usual.

Many people come by car from nearby towns and there are several annual repeaters, too. Wine bars and cafes, which are usually closed early remain opened till late. Please enjoy the unique atmosphere of the night once a year.

The second day: more colorful parade

The second day starts from 3:30 pm with a tug competition, a wooden sled race, a bows race and a contest to choose the "Madonna of the Spring". On the video screen you can see close-up scenes of those who compete seriously! The tug competition and the wood sled race are prepared with elaboration for fairness. Don't miss the best scene because both races finish rapidly.

The biggest highlight, however, should be the parade. Families with children dressed in red, ultramarine and green colors, soldiers with armor, dancing women in pastel-colored costumes, the youngs carrying a monument of a tower etc... They will continue one after another with dizzying procession of drums so it would be difficult even to have a time to blink!!! Please don't miss photo opportunities. It's really amazing to be there. Italian art sense and color sense are really wonderful.

The evening of this day will be conclused by the sotto district. So the main street to the Church of St. Francis will be closed before the church. However you can see the church lighted up by candles... It's mysterious and looked different!!

Excitement climax: the night parade and countdown to the end

Finally the last day (the third day) is coming. It starts also at 3:30 pm. On this day, both districts compete directly doing their parade from opposite streets into the Piazza del Comune. There are also animals like horses and donkeys in the parade! They have some traditional goods in hands like looms, olive trees with a piece of bread, clothes etc. These are symbols of the life of people at that time.

Near the end of the parade, young people with the flags run around the square singing. People become more excited and clap their hands while singing or waving a handkerchief. The Day Part is concluded by the march from the Via Mazzini to the plaza in front of St. Clare church.

At 9:30 pm, the Night Parade begins followed by the chorus. An emerging angel monument is illuminated by fire in the dark and a little bit scary!! It's really fantastic atmosphere. Actually at this time, you would be tired after three days long festival, but please don't miss the last parade. It gives you a different impression and an unforgettable memory.

After finishing of the parade at 11:30 pm, the clock tower of the square will be illuminated by spotlights. Most of spectators remain for the countdown. Young people's tension is increasing and it will continue all through night until the next morning.

After the festival ...

At 9.00 am of the next morning, there is no heat of the festival except garbage and cleaning crews (bars are open)...

In the Via San Paolo many monuments of the parade are discard. Locals say that after the festival everybody gets tired out and many monuments will be left about a month. Evidently, they are removed at the end of May.

Assisi is attractive of course as his usual quiet town of martyrs. However I recommend to know that this holy town has some lively and colorful aspects. Especially during these three days you can feel the passion of the people of Assisi who love their culture and customs.

In Italy there are many festivals. Calendimaggio is one of the biggest and good occasions to enjoy the Medieval atmosphere. If you have a chance to trip to Assisi, please try to visit during this period once by all means!

Event's name Calendimaggio in Assisi
Period For three days, From the first Thursday to Saturday in May
2009, from the May 7 until the 9
Information Palazzo dei priori-Piazza del Comune, 11-06081 Assisi-Italy
Phone number +39 075 816868
Official Site