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Digital Subscriptions > Italia! > Mar 2019 > Vero Italiano FESTA DELLA DONNA

Vero Italiano FESTA DELLA DONNA

In the latest part of Mario Matassa’s series uncovering the secrets of Italian food, Mario takes a look at International Women’s Day. He revels in the mystery of the celebrations and presents some of the classic dishes.

The 8th of March is the day when women across Italy hang up their aprons, put on their best frocks, and walk out of the door – leaving us poor men behind to fend for ourselves. For many Italian men that genuinely still means having to settle for a panino or two in the bar. For me it’s not so much of a problem as I consider myself a fairly deft hand in the kitchen, but for a lot of my friends I know it’s a day they dread. They can’t even resort to their mother’s house for dinner because even mamma takes the day off on March the 8th.

International Women’s Day is of course a global celebration of the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future. It has its roots in early 20th-century socialist movements in Eastern Europe, with the first IWD being observed in Germany in 1911. It didn’t become popular in the West, however, until the 1970s. In Italy, the Festa della Donna was first held in 1946, organised by the feminist UDI (Union of Italian Women) and its popularity today is such that it’s become something of a de facto unofficial public holiday – for women. And, unlike many festivals, it’s one of those rare events that is celebrated throughout the country. So, if you are a woman in Italy on the 8th of March, wherever you are, there’s going to be a party happening somewhere nearby. The only downside, if you consider it such, is that you’ll have to leave your husband or boyfriend in the hotel or the local bar.

For reasons unknown to me, women tend to be very secretive – almost conspiratorial – about the Women’s Day dinner

For men, the day does have its perks. Though we are left to fend for ourselves, we can take some consolation in the fact that we don’t have to remember to buy flowers. The yellow mimosa is the flower of choice, and women exchange bouquets among themselves. The story has it that the yellow mimosa was chosen as a symbol by the women of Rome because it was sweet-smelling, one of the few flowers available in March and – perhaps most importantly – did not cost very much. The tradition took hold and the yellow mimosa has since become an Italian symbol of Women’s Day. And this is also reflected in the recipes used to celebrate the day.

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About Italia!

Our new issue will take you from the chilly alpine splendour of Courmayeur in Valle d’Aosta right down to Sicily – visit the majestic Valley of the Temples near Agrigento or stay nearby at the Verdura Resort. A recent fl ying visit to Florence inspired our ‘48 Hours’ feature this month; from new discoveries at the Duomo to a new way of getting around (by tuk-tuk), this venerable city is always a pleasure to visit. And, turning to another alternative mode of transport, we take a tour around Lake Garda by e-bike.