Christmas in Italy: A Living Nativity in Umbria

Settled on a hilltop in rural Umbria halfway between Rome and Florence off the A1 autostrada is Monteleone di Orvieto, a municipality of Terni built in the 12th century. During three days throughout Christmas season, visitors can meander through the cobblestone streets of the centro storico, the setting for the Presepe Vivente or “living nativity.” During these special days, the residents of …

A Classic Christmas Dessert Recipe from Sicily

Updated 2018. When writing my guest article on Italian Christmas desserts, I asked my friend Maria Louisa Manca, who is a very good cook from Catania (a beautiful city situated on the slope of Mount Etna) to share a favorite dessert from her native Sicily. Here is Maria Louisa’s classic recipe for Croccante alle Mandorle Siciliano: Ingredients: (for 7-8 servings) 500 gr almonds, lightly …

Will Strega Be “Bewitching” Your Italian Christmas Celebrations?

One thing Italians and Americans have in common is their love of heavy, elaborate meals at holiday celebrations. Only the Italians, though, can make the excuse that drinking liquor after your meal is good for your digestion. One of my favorite digestivi, especially around Christmas, is Strega (Italian for witch). It comes from Benevento, a city in the Campania region that …

Christmas in Italy: ‘Ndocciata Torch Parade

Italy has many special Christmas celebrations, but there’s one in the region of Molise that may be among the most unique. The ‘Ndocciata, or torchlight parade, takes place on December 8th and 24th in the town of Agnone. It is the largest celebration of its kind in the world. The ndocce are 6 to 8 feet high torches made of silver fir …