Memories of the Festive Season in Umbria

On January 6th I knew exactly where I wanted to be – in the main piazza of Todi at 18h00. When I arrived the piazza was already full of adults and children; just like me, they came in anticipation of ‘La Befana’, the old woman that brings special sweets to those of us that have been good during the year!

La Befana is flying

In the Italian countryside, ‘Befana’ continues to be the day for sweets and gifts, while Christmas remains the day to share a robust lunch with family and friends. Everyone looks forward to ‘Befana’, and in her grand tradition she once again made a spectacular arrival in Todi just before 7pm, flying down from the sky on her magic broom into the piazza to meet the anxious crowds, both young and old!

La Befana has arrived

To be honest, she is quite an ugly old woman but she has a heart of gold and the children just love her and of course the candies she hands out.

La Befana

Befana, (the Epiphany) is the final day of the festive celebrations in Umbria. I hate to see the season end but realize if we had this every day it wouldn’t be so special.  And this year was very special with so many traditional events in the streets.

 One of my favorites was vin brulè and frittelle hosted by Caffè Pianegiani in the small piazza ‘Fonte Cesia’ in reference to the beautiful, 400 year old fountain nestled in the wall. Huddling around the table with others to watch and smell the deep frying of the lightly battered apple slices was almost as delicious as tasting them!  And the warm spiced wine was a welcome surprise on a crisp evening while making ‘la passeggiata’ in centro Todi.

Vin Brule' and Frittelle

‘La passeggiata’ is a year round, daily ritual, basically an enjoyable stroll before dinner. It is a time to breathe in the evening air while meeting up with friends and neighbors.

The festive season in Umbria is always warm and inviting but there was an extra special feeling in the air this year; a wonderfully uplifting sense of joy and community; it is no secret that it has been a difficult year for Italy so sharing the season was more important than ever for the locals: the bubbles and popcorn in the piazza, the rich hot chocolate, the festive decorations and the classical music; not to forget the Christmas train navigating the narrow streets of centro full of excited local passengers as well as those from Rome, Milan and beyond affectionately waving back to strangers in the shops and on the street.

Christmas Train in Todi

This year we also experienced a live procession and re-enactment of the ‘nativity scene’. With over 100 in full costume, complete with live animals, whether or not you are Christian this was a dramatic event to witness through the medieval streets of Todi.

We’ll hold these special moments close and hope that, if you haven’t already, that one day you will also enjoy the spontaneity of the holiday season in Umbria.

Piazza del Popolo Christmas 2012

And just in case you had any doubt, I wish to confirm that I did receive a sweet from La Befana!

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