Let’s stick to the Halloween theme and see what’s going on here in Italy. Or better yet: what are our traditions, aside from the fancy dress parties with witch and ghost costumes that we inherited from America?
Long before the unavoidable sets of pumpkins that we nowadays light up and use as lanterns, over the centuries here too we’ve devised an excellent way of exorcising death, the dead and whatever else: with sweet treats, of course.
So, for this kind of Italian-style Halloween, I suggest we embark on one of our tours along the length and breadth of ‘the Boot’, in the spirit of the typical delicacies of those times.
Well then, like fine witches and wizards, let’s get on our broomsticks, cast our spells and... off we go!
We’ll start in Milan, my very own city. Let’s stop and taste the pan dei morti, the bread of the dead (a name that gets right to the point!): chocolate biscuits flavoured with cinnamon and nutmeg, covered in icing sugar to make them as white as the bones of a skeleton. Such joy!!
In Tuscany, people think more about the saints than about the dead: the pan coi santi, or ‘bread with the saints’, is a sweet bread with raisins, walnuts and black pepper to be enjoyed in slices until Christmas, while we wait for our panettone (which is from Milan, did you know? I’ll tell you about that one day, I promise!).
The ossa dei morti, the bones of the dead (here we go again!) cross the whole of Italy, from Parma to Sicily, passing through Siena. These are dry, crumbly biscuits, and they’re as hard as bones, wouldn’t you know... ;) Depending on the area, the ingredients and shape can change slightly, but their texture remains the same: so hard that dentists may not approve...
Another not-so-suggestive name is morticello, the nougat of the dead. This is what they call a special chocolate nougat in Naples on account of the shape of the slab: it looks just like a coffin. 😱 It comes in various flavours, such as coffee, hazelnut and gianduja: in a nutshell, some kinds of morticello are better than others.
In short: just a few lines is all it takes to see that, in Italy too, we know how to avoid the topic... After all, when pumpkins are used as lanterns, they do look ridiculous... ;)
Well, here’s wishing you a wonderful day – regardless of your position on the matter! Ciao!