So it’s almost 2017! There’s a lot to look forward to in the upcoming year (and I’m particularly counting down the days to our Foodie-Trip to Paris and Tuscany!) So in the spirit of joyous celebrations, here’s how to ring in the New Year Italian Style.
Where to go
Like most Westernized countries, Italy’s city centers become lively places of celebration for the big night. Concerts, dinners, outdoor events and romantic outings are unique to each city.
In Milan for instance, main squares like Piazza Duomo and Piazza Affari, showcase live music concerts and dance shows with acrobats and a lights display. There are also theatre productions like “Inani burloni” at the Mil, “Coppélia” at the Teatro alla Scala.
In Venice you can have a magical evening taking a gondola ride under the stars, followed by a traditional smooch at the kiss-in in San Marco. Traditions continue throughout the night with a concert at Teatro la Fenice and a final toast, “Libiam ne’ lieti calici” from Giuseppe Verdi’s Traviata.
In Florence, the city of Renaissance art, the lights, and decor are truly a sight to see. As part of the Tuscan countryside, intimate dinners in medieval villages and quaint trattorias lend a historic vibe to the evening.
If you find yourself in Bologna for New Year’s, you’ll have to check out the historic event of Piazza Maggiore, where you’ll see the burning of “Vecchione”, during which an image designed by an artist is burned.
We’ve mentioned our love for Emilia-Romagna before, and the northern township of Ferrara hosts an incredible fireworks display surrounding the Castle of the Estense family. It’s a musical event bringing hundreds of visitors and locals out to celebrate in the streets. Alternatively, you can enjoy a more regal evening by participating in the banquet of the Dukes of Este at the Castle, which is an adamantly themed Renaissance event including pages, guards and ladies-in-waiting in full costume, as well as a traditional menu.
The next best thing to being in Italy on New Year’s eve might be adopting their norms and traditions at home. Because even when not in Rome, who says you can’t live like the Romans do?
It’s apparently good luck for both men and women to wear red underwear on New Year’s Eve. Red is the colour of fertility, so those hoping to conceive in the upcoming year consider the coloured garments particularly fortuitous.
Out With the Old
Taking this phrase literally, Italians particularly in the south are known to actually throw old pots, pans, clothes, and even furniture right out the window! The exercise is meant to symbolize letting go of unhappiness in preparation for the future. Visitors be warned – keep your eyes up when walking down the street!
Like most places around the world, fireworks are a common sight on New Year’s Eve. Some say they function to scare the bad spirits away, though the riotous display of colours in the sky is a beloved and nostalgic sign of the season.
What to Eat
The Italian New Year’s Eve dinner signifies a prosperous new year filled with abundance, so you can imagine how indulgent this feast can get! One tradition of Piedmont (the birthplace of the Slow Food Movement) is to have a bountiful dinner known as a cenone. Oftentimes this meal includes a risotto in bianco (white risotto), as rice is meant to symbolize coins.
One notably popular dish is lentils (which symbolize wealth) served alongside cotechino, a big pork sausage that’s boiled over low heat for many hours before serving. Although the cotechino from Modena is an IGP (legally-protected) product, it is a customary item in other Italian regions like Lombardy, Trentino, and Venice.
Another common sight on a traditional New Years Eve’s dinner table is zampone, sausage that’s stuffed in a hollowed-out pig’s trotter. The sliced pieces look like coins, which again is representative of prosperity in the new year.
To ensure a sweet new year, ancient Romans exchanged jars of dates and figs in honey, as well as bay branches for good fortune. Today the tradition hasn’t changed much, at least in Naples, where people exchange figs wrapped in laurel leaves. A traditional Italian New Year’s Even dinner is finished off with dried fruit and grapes. Grapes on the table ensures that guests keep in mind the great willpower it takes to conserve the fruits from harvest until New Year’s eve. As such, grapes correlate to the notion of being wise and frugal spenders with new found wealth in the new year.
Of course, Italian sweet breads like panettone are a common sight at festive celebrations. Originating in Milan, panettone differs from most fruit cakes because of its time-consuming preparation. The dough takes several days to make, as it has to be cured. Panettone is often served with a sweet wine like Moscato or hot tea or coffee.
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*Article was written by Lauren Israel and originally published on our sister company site, Foodie-trips.com