Bright and early on a May morning, somewhere in the Tuscan countryside, a little band of children is gathering. Along the country lanes, they knock at the door of every farmhouse and stand and sing their repertoire of May-time songs, all about cuckoos and spring flowers and boys and girls at dances. Afterwards they are, of course, rewarded with biscuits and lemonade!
Cantamaggio (May-song) is part of a tradition which dates from pagan times, a celebration of the miracle of Nature's fertility - and is inspired by birds nesting and children and all new things growing out of the death of winter.The English maypole, with its flowers blooming out of, apparently, dead wood, has an Italian counterpart and you can see it on the third Sunday in May in the small town of Acquapendente, down on the border between Tuscany and Lazio. Here, for the Festa della Madonna del Fiore (Our Lady of the Flower), long wooden implements, rather like enormous spades, are decorated with flowers and leaves and paraded up and down the streets of this charming little town.