Flowery – but not Florid – Street Art

Once I had my stay at Il Limoneto all sorted out, I started looking at how to get to the various places I wanted to visit in the area.   One of them was the Val di Noto, about 40 km to the south.  It is a collection of towns that, like Catania (In Fin dei Conti – All Things Considered, June 20, 2015), were rebuilt after the earthquake of 1693.  The whole area was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site as ‘an outstanding testimony to the exuberant genius of late Baroque art and architecture’  and ‘the culmination and final flowering of Baroque art in Europe’.  Two highly valid and reasonable criteria for the area being included in the august list.  I just wondered about the criterion that has to do with the entire area being ‘permanently at risk from earthquakes and eruption of Mt. Etna’.  In any event, assuming that while permanent, the risk was not imminent, I intended to visit some of those towns.

I had already visited Noto, the town the valley is named for, on my first trip to Sicily, but that was ten years ago and I had started in Palermo, and made my way around the island in a counter-clockwise direction.  This time I was starting in Siracusa and heading clockwise.

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Church of San Domenico.  One of many examples of the ‘exuberant genius of late Baroque architecture’.

While I was looking for the best route from Il Limoneto I stumbled across a festival I had never heard of before – l’Infiorata.  In towns across Italy, artists cover the streets with flower petals in a kind of floral version of stained glass. Noto’s Infiorata was considered to be the best of them all.  On Friday night, Via Nicolaci, the lane with the most incredible balconies I had ever seen, would be closed to the public and the artists would begin.

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One of the balconies along Via Nicolaci. Perhaps the only balconies in the world where the view from below is as good as, if not better, than the view from above.

All Saturday and Sunday visitors from all over Sicily and abroad would come to admire their work and on Monday, the local children would rampage through the flowers in a ritualistic portrayal of renewal and destruction.  The fact that the children may not be aware of the symbolism apparently takes nothing away from the energy with which they fulfill their role.

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Most Infiorate are held the Sunday of Corpus Christi, nine weeks after Easter, which means that the dates vary from year to year.  But in Noto, the date is fixed – the weekend of the third Sunday in May.  I nervously checked my dates.  I was in luck.  I had arrived the Thursday before the festival.

The cathedral of Noto.  For a town of under 24,000, there was a remarkable number of these Baroque churches.

The cathedral of Noto. For a town of under 24,000, it has a remarkable number of churches.

I would have loved to watch the artists at work, but I was not keen on the idea of having to make my way back in the dark along unlit, and what were probably unmarked, country roads.  Instead, I decided to get an early start, leaving before breakfast, in the hopes of beating the crowd. As it was, driving through the labyrinth of Noto’s narrow streets – many of which, despite the senso unico (one way) signs, were being treated as two way streets by the local drivers – was nerve-wracking enough.

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View from the ‘entrance’ at the lower end of Via Nicolaci.

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SPQN. A play on the ancient Roman acronym, SPQR, Senatus Populusque Romanus, nowadays the official emblem of Rome.

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The theme for 2015 was Catalonia, the region in north-eastern Spain most often associated nowadays with strong, separatist tendencies.  But for today, flower power ruled.

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Shells, beans, seeds and coffee grounds add texture.

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Next to each design was an explanatory panel.  Here, Il libro e la rosa. (The Book and the Rose)

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The next one had me – and the people standing next to me – stumped.  It was called ‘La cara de la dansa‘.

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In Italian cara means ‘dear’, as in cara mia (my dear).  Since Spanish is so close to Italian, I figured la cara de la dansa was ‘the beloved dance partner’.  But what were those splotches between the two dancers and what was with the tail-like protuberance hanging from the beloved’s dress?  Maybe you saw it right away, but it took me a while.

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Like the Rubin Vase, once you see it, you can’t not see it.  In fairness, when you’re leaning over the rope, peering at it sideways, it’s not quite as easy to see.

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La cara de la dansa. Spanish for ‘The face of the dance.’

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My favourite was the violinist – the shading in her gown, the mosaic-like background, especially the carnation stems…

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…and whoever came up with the idea of using lentils, beans and coffee grounds is just brilliant.

The final image was a salute to the Sardana, a traditional Catalan dance, and powerful symbol of national pride.

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La Sardana. Abbraccio Barocco. (Baroque Embrace)

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A couple of carabinieri at the upper end of Via Nicolai ensured that no-one tried to skip the line-up at the bottom.

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Whatever did they do if it rained or was windy?

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I walked up and down both sides and then, before things got crowded, headed back to my car.  Not a moment too soon.  A trail of cars, some of whose drivers could not resist the temptation that the lane leading out of town presented, was already snaking its way up from the valley below.   Time to head to a seaside village Dora had told me about.  By the time I got there, it would almost be time for lunch.

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4 Responses to Flowery – but not Florid – Street Art

  1. nser@rogers.com says:

    You were blessed to have seen this artwork, you lucky traveler, you. But okay, Donna, I don’t get it.  I’m still stumped.  The dancers.  Do I see two eyes and a mouth?  Help!!! Take care, Nancy Serrick   From: Loving Italy’s Gardens To: nser@rogers.com Sent: Tuesday, July 7, 2015 4:40 PM Subject: [New post] Flowery – but not Florid – Street Art #yiv6437628192 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv6437628192 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv6437628192 a.yiv6437628192primaryactionlink:link, #yiv6437628192 a.yiv6437628192primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv6437628192 a.yiv6437628192primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv6437628192 a.yiv6437628192primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv6437628192 WordPress.com | donnafenice posted: “Once I had my stay at Il Limoneto all sorted out, I started looking at how to get to the various places I wanted to visit in the area.   One of them was the Val di Noto, about 40 km to the south.  It is a collection of towns that, like Catania (In Fin dei” | |

    • donnafenice says:

      Hi Nancy, Oh dear, sounds like once I saw the second image, it was so ‘obvious’ I figured that apart from me – and the people next to me – no-one else would have a problem. In any event, glad to know I’m not the only one. You are right of course, and if you take another look at the photo of the plaque, you may wonder, like I did, how you didn’t see the ‘cara’ of the dancer straight away. Thanks and ciao, Donna

  2. Ruth Adams says:

    What an unexpected delight! These artists would love The Rose Parade, held every New Year’s Day, in Pasadena, California, just before the Rose Bowl (football game). Every float is decorated in roses, many different flowers, and organic plant material (beans, coconut husks, corn silk, seaweed).

    • donnafenice says:

      Hi Ruth, Thanks to your tip about the Pasadena Rose Parade I’ve just spent a lovely while looking at floral parades throughout the world. Lots of absolutely wonderful displays – Holland especially has some extraordinary parades. Grazie.

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