Welcome to the Equator’s new series, Pole to Pole – Culture Unparalleled. While working with EF, and on my own, I’ve had the opportunity to visit some amazing places and witness just how beautiful our world can be. This series is all about highlighting special cultural moments or traditions that I’ve experienced while traveling through the northern and southern hemisphere. I hope you enjoy, and happy reading!
Head about two hours south of Florence and you’ll find the town of Assisi nestled in the Umbria region. Known as the birthplace of St. Francis, it’s also home to the Feast of Corpus Christi. This is the celebration of the belief in the body and blood of Jesus Christ.
Before you travel, you need details
Assisi is as charming as an Italian town could get. Think cobble stone piazzas and narrow alley ways filled with pastry and gelato shops. Each turn leads to another building just as beautiful as the last—before you realize it you will have taken dozens of photos.
The Corpus Christi festival is held each year 60 days after Easter. On this day, the locals come together, young and old, to share in this experience. Artistic, stunningly elaborate walkways are built from hundreds of flower petals, plants and leaves, only to be swept away when the bishop walks through the city and over the townspeople’s creation. Even knowing their work is short lived, they put no less effort in.
The adventure in real time
When you arrive in Italy, especially if it’s your first trip, all you really want to do is hit the main attractions: Rome, Milan, and Florence! Am I right? While Assisi wasn’t on the top of my list, I’m glad it was a stop on my Grand Tour of Italy with EF – looking back on my trip, Assisi was most definitely a highlight, and is now one of my favorite Italian cities.
One thing everyone should know about Assisi – it’s very hilly, and walking around can be a work out. Our Tour Director knew that the Feast of Corpus Christi was supposed to happen that evening at the top of Assisi near the Rocca Maggiore, also known as the Castle of Assisi.
You start hiking up towards the castle and think, “I’ve got this, not too bad.” But before you know it, you’re sweating, you’re winded and you’re thinking, “Maybe I can’t do this? And how do locals do this every day?!” Once you reach the top you’ll find yourself surrounded by locals making the most spectacular floral runway that you could ever imagine. The one we saw was incredible. People had sketches of their designs on paper, and had spent hours turning them into 15 foot murals on the ground. Each mural was lightly sprayed with water, so that it was weighted and not blown away by the soft summer wind.
The “I’ve been bitten by the travel bug” moment
It’s the unexpected moments like this that make traveling so special. As the procession began I immediately forgot about the hike. I was living like a local and truly experiencing the culture of Assisi. This unique experience drew me in and pushed me to embrace the moment. I could have simply turned back around and said, “no thanks,” but I didn’t. In front of me was an opportunity that I may never get again, so step-by-step I made my way to the top, saw the world from a brand new perspective and witnessed something beautiful.
Kelsey is a Customer Service Manager at EF Educational Tours in Denver. She’s a Midwest girl, currently obsessed with life near the Rocky Mountains, and a lover of traveling, coffee, food and tennis (Roger Federer fan for life!).