One of the best things about visiting Italy is of course tasting its world-famous food, with each region or city having its own delicious recipes and variations. Christmas time has to be one of the best times to visit for this reason, as the Italians love to celebrate the occasion by indulging on their favourite foods and sharing them with friends and family.
Italy is particularly famous for its sweet breads and cakes at Christmas time, all of which are available to purchase freshly homemade from local shops and at the wonderful Christmas markets you’ll find in towns and cities across Italy. Read on to find out some of our favourites, perfect for bringing back from your stay at our boutique hotels in Italy:
Hailing from Verona, pandoro is a sweet star-shaped Christmas bread which is dusted with powdered sugar, said to resemble the nearby mountains. Translating into “bread of gold”, the bread dates back to the Middle Ages, when it would have been enjoyed only by the very wealthy. Today, people all over Italy and beyond enjoy pandoro, which is sometimes also filled with gelato or Chantilly cream.
A chewy dense fruitcake first devised in Siena, panforte is a delicious Christmas treat flavoured heavily with ingredients such as honey, coriander, cloves, white pepper and cinnamon among others. Its strong flavour and durability has meant it has remained popular over the centuries, with Crusaders taking panforte with them as they travelled on their quests.
Translating into “sweet bread”, pandolce originates from Genova, and is a dense yet crumbly bread, flavoured with both spices and candied fruits. It is said that pandolce was born from the 16th century Doge of Genova Andrea Doria’s request to find a food which would represent the Republic’s wealth, be nutritious and be suitable for long sea voyages. Today, the tradition still remains that part of the pandolce should be set aside for the poor, while another should be kept and consumed on the feast day of St Blaise on February 3.
Another sweet treat which could be described more as a cake than as a bread, panpepato has a distinctive gingerbread flavour, with its ingredients of cloves, cinnamon, nuts, honey, nutmeg, dark chocolate and candied fruit giving the cake its name (which translates into “spiced bread” in English). Its origins are debated, with some saying its origins are Tuscan, while others believe it dates back to 15th century Ferrara.
Originating from Rome and the surrounding Lazio region, pangiallo is a golden yellow bread filled with all kinds of ingredients including nuts, spices, raisins and candied fruit such as lime peel. It dates back to ancient times, with Pagan Romans having baked the bread’s predecessor during the winter solstice as an offering to the gods to bring back the sun. The use of nuts did not come in until after the Roman age, as nuts were too expensive; dried plum and apricot kernels were often used instead.
Panettone hails from Milan, and resembles a dome in shape, flavoured with raisins and candied citrus peels, which you can find studded throughout. The bread dough takes several days to make as, like with sourdough, it has to be cured. Panettone is often served up with a hot beverage or a sweet wine often enjoyed at Christmas such as Moscato d’Asti.
Image: Nicola, available under Creative Commons