Monday December 19, 2016
BookBedder invites you to Italy to discover their festive traditions, and where better to start than in the Italian capital of Rome?
The period of Advent starts on the 8th of December, the day of Immaculate Conception and a bank holiday throughout the country. It’s on this day that the streets are dressed with lights and families decorate their homes.
The tradition of the crèche, or nativity scene (presepio in Italian) was started in Italy by Saint Francis, with the baby Jesus, Gesù Bambino, placed in his manger eight days before Christmas. It is the beginning of the period called Novena, and is celebrated with people singing in the streets. In the south of Italy and in Rome the zampognari play folk music on Italian bagpipes.
And what would Christmas be without gifts for the children? In Italy this long-awaited moment varies depending on the region. In Friuli, Lombardy, Emilia Romagna, Trentino-Alto Adige, and Venice they celebrate the Feast of Saint Lucy on December 13th, and for many it is also when gifts are given to the children.
In other regions the presents arrive on December 25th, left either by Father Christmas (Babbo Natale) or by baby Jesus. But in Rome, the little ones must wait until January 6th (Epiphany) for their gifts, this time brought by La Befana, the Witch of Christmas. Flying from house to house on her broom, she scoots down chimneys leaving treats for good children and lumps of coal for those who misbehave.
Naturally gastronomy is an important part of the holidays in a country that takes its cuisine very seriously! Roast veal is the traditional meal in the North of the country, coming after an opening dish of ravioli and followed by Panettone or Pandoro for dessert. In the South they will often start with seafood pasta followed by a fish dish such as seabass baked in a salt crust or a scallop gratin, before attacking the dessert, which in Rome is the famous Pangiallo, a fruitcake with nuts, dried citron, and honey.
Independent hotel of the month
To take full advantage of the Roman festivities, we recommend the boutique hotel Relais Maddalena, a comfortable independent guesthouse in the heart of Rome, situated in the lovely Pantheon quarter overlooking the Piazza Della Maddalena. Perfectly located for discovering the Italian capital, you will be delighted with the spacious rooms and their contemporary design, as well as the warm friendly service.
Photo of Rome copyright George Rex