I just had my mind blown by this ensemble of Perugian flag throwers. (I failed to bring a camera, so follow the link to the collection of beautiful photos from whence the above shot came.) They're amazing, and they'll be at Milwaukee's Festa Italiana -- please find them and wish them "Benvenuti!"
At their perimeter, I watched hungrily and deliriously, leading the applause for every throw and catch and every rousing fanfare. I didn't realize who they were right away -- I scrutinized their fabulous clothes, drooled over their amazing motleys. The flag-throwers themselves were in late-14th/early-15th-century dagged tunics with beautiful long liripipe hoods, in every color, dazzling and flawless. Their leggings are all particolored and pieced intricately. The drummers and trumpeters had those amazing floor-length dagged oversleeves with the crenellated edges: ASTOUNDINGLY PERFECT. Their clothes were wonderful, down to the smallest detail, and I thought, "Where're these guys from? How can I book them for stuff?"
Then I heard one of their directors speak quietly to one of them in Italian. My heart launched itself into my throat. Sotto voce, I said to the nearest flag-bearer, "Siete Italiani?" His eyes wide, he replied, "Si!" And I exploded. Bang! Confetti everywhere. Not really. But you would think that'd happen. 'Coz you know me. "Benvenuti a Milwaukee!" I whispered in a happy panic.
I spoke afterward with one of their direttori. He's Siciliano, and he says I speak Italian better than I think I do. Lui é troppo gentile, penso. We chatted, half in Italian, half in English when I forgot how to say it in Italian, and I promised I would come to Perugia and don the motley and join one of their celebrations someday.
The company moved me to happy tears, and now I'm sitting here nervously turning my passport over and over and over. The airport isn't far. I'm just saying. Mi manca Italia sempre con tutto il cuore. I can't help feeling I'm supposed to live somewhere where the culture has festivals and spectacle built into it, not merely imposed upon it as bourgeois retro luxury or silly afterthought. Grazie e sempre benvenuti, bravi Italiani!