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trillium

Passover & Easter in Italy: Foods & Traditions

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Andrew:  the cake is 'colomba' (= dove), the symbol for Easter / peace.  It's true, many people buy it already made - you can actually find some brands which are truly good (the 'semiartigianali').  It may be troublesome to make it at home, because of the extremely delicate dough (which can easily become acidic), and of the time required to make it rise.  That' why many end up buying it already made.  Some pasticcerie, however, make it upon customer's request. :wink:

Yeah, I can imagine that it'd be pretty great if made by a really good pasticceria (or a home baker). The recipes I've seen online don't look too tough (finding the bird-shaped mold, especially outside of Italy, might be the toughest part). Maybe I'll give it a go next year.

In looking around for recipes, I found a couple of legends of the colomba's origins, from this website:

"The dessert has Lombard origins. The story tells that the first person to prepare a sweet bread in the shape of a dove, on Easter in the year 750 was a baker from Pavia. He gave it, as a sign of peace, to the Lombard king Alboino who was destroying with steel and fire the city that had given him strenuous opposition. This humble gesture had the effect of moving the heart of the invader, who ceased from his ferocious program of vengeance.

Another tradition has it that the legend was born in the observation of two doves, which during a battle were placed on the symbol of Carroccio, as if to symbolize good luck and protection for the Milanese army, at the time of Frederick Barbarossa and the League of Lombard cities."

Oh you Longobardi! Hairy barbarians you may have been- but you gave us pastry.

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Oh you Longobardi! Hairy barbarians you may have been- but you gave us pastry.

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Here's the really odd thing I've noticed in Italy over Easter...  Everybody, and I mean everybody, buys these pre-packaged Easter cakes.  Kevin72 described them-- they're sort of like a coffee cake or sweet bread, sometimes dove-shaped, and topped with nuts and sugar.  You could probably make a good one yourself, but I don't get the sense that many people do.  And I haven't seen them in pasticcerie, either; just these prepackaged, industrial cakes.  It blows me away that in a country that prizes good cooking, and good home cooking, as much as the Italians do, there's so much demand for these things.  I'm sort of at a loss: there just seems to be an expectation that this is what you do for Pasqua-- whether or not it's something you'd actually want to eat.  Very very strange...

Something else to consider are the different attitudes towards home-baked vs. store-bought goods in Italy and in countries such as the United States where good bakeries are a relatively new phenomenon.

It's hard to generalize, but Italians in villages and urban centers have been purchasing baked goods at least since the Middle Ages when there were massive communal ovens even if there's a great cook in the family. Bread is cheap, its price regulated by law to ensure sustenance of even those of little means. Moreover, as I am sure you know, elegant pastry shops in Italy, as distinct from bakeries carrying bread, have been around for a long time, thus, all the ones that stay open until around 1 or 2 on Sundays so that families can pick up a nice cake on the way to the grandparents for dinner.

I imagine that these cultural practices endured even with the advent of supermarkets like Essalunga and mass production of cakey breads at Christmas and Easter.


"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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Oh, I hear what you're saying. Indeed, one of the striking aspects of Italian food culture is the abundance of quality prepared foods for take-out. Bakeries, pasticcerie, tavole calde, rosticcerie... this is something that the US (thanks in large part to Whole Foods and the like) is just starting to emulate. The only statement of yours I'd quibble with is dating it to the Middle Ages. Anybody who goes to Ostia or Pompeii or Herculaneum will see the same thing, under the label cauponae, popinae or thermopolia- or, for that matter, just plain ol' bakeries.

Which is why these prepackaged colombe are so odd. Given the number of really good pastry shops, at least in a city like Rome, you'd think that you'd see the cakes being sold there. But I just didn't. Maybe it's that they're a Lombard thing, and you'd see them for sale in pasticcerie in Milan. I dunno.

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A followup on supermarket colombe and panettone: I asked an Italian friend what he thought about this phenomenon. His response was that "in Italy, the upper classes and the lower classes just eat the packaged stuff and don't think much about it. It's just the bourgeoisie, like us, who worry about this sort of thing."

I don't know if this is a very useful answer-- and I'm not sure that he was all that serious, either. But if nothing else, it shows the difficulty of getting a straight answer out of an Italian communist academic...

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I'm helping some friends plan a trip to Florence to visit their daughter, and the dates they must arrive on March 20 - 24, and depart on the 25th. And that apparently coincides with Easter.

So - will anything at all be open in Florence (or anywhere drivable to nearby) for any of those dates? Can anybody tell me what the rules of open and closed will be for things - restaurants and other things, for Good Friday (3/21), Easter Sunday (3/23), and Easter Monday (3/24)?

Many, many thanks.

(Myself, I've been places, like Germany at Christmas, where the only way we had Christmas Eve dinner was to stock up on Burger King before it closed at noon and heat them up with the hair-dryer at night, and we were staying in a luxury hotel! But that's another story, and in the past. I'm trying to get a sense of what to advise my friends to expect.)


Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

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I'm helping some friends plan a trip to Florence to visit their daughter, and the dates they must arrive on March 20 - 24, and depart on the 25th.  And that apparently coincides with Easter.

So - will anything at all be open in Florence (or anywhere drivable to nearby) for any of those dates?  Can anybody tell me what the rules of open and closed will be for things - restaurants and other things, for Good Friday (3/21), Easter Sunday (3/23), and Easter Monday (3/24)?

Many, many thanks.

(Myself, I've been places, like Germany at Christmas, where the only way we had Christmas Eve dinner was to stock up on Burger King before it closed at noon and heat them up with the hair-dryer at night, and we were staying in a luxury hotel!  But that's another story, and in the past.  I'm trying to get a sense of what to advise my friends to expect.)

Good Friday is a normal working day, Easter Monday a holiday. Since Easter is a big travel weekend for Italians, and Florence and surroundings a major destination, lots of places will be open, but do book.


Maureen B. Fant
www.maureenbfant.com

www.elifanttours.com

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Easter is a big holiday in Florence with a large celebration at the high mass, noon?, in the piazza duomo.

they will want to see that. A parade and the large cart is brought in front of the Duomo and from the main alter a wooden dove is shot to the cart ( on a cord) and if all goes well sets off a series of fireworks, symbolizing a good harvest!

They used to have bleachers set up for watching, but now I think everyone just hangs out.

I have a dining guide on my blog for Florence and Chianti.

The big meal is usually at lunch for holidays, so I would reserve a Easter lunch.

and tradition has Easter Monday in the countryside.

The town pf Greve has a huge flea market in their piazza.

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