March 2022 Newsletter: Italian Zeppole, Trastevere, St. Fina, Auguri Papà, & More!

Auguri Papà

Father’s Day in Italy on St. Joseph’s Feast Day

I’m so looking forward to heading back to Italy, what I call the Motherland, the place of my heritage. But given that my upcoming trip takes place in March, I should temporarily refer to it the “fatherland,” and here’s why.

March is a wonderful time to visit Italy. The weather is comfortable, cool but comfortable temperatures in the upper 50’s and low 60’s, with an increased chance of some rain. If you pack a waterproof jacket, and dress in layers you’re all set to enjoy Bella Italia, and because of the time of year being the off-season, as far as tourism is concerned, no need to pack extra patience since you won’t find massive crowds. What you will find in Italy, in addition to the well-known Carnivale celebrations, is a wonderful holiday that remind Italians of the importance of fathers.

St. Joseph and Jesus

Italy celebrates its Father’s Day on March 19th, which also happens to be an important feast day in the Catholic Church, the feast of St. Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus. Being that Italy is such a Catholic country, many of their other holidays are often connected to saints. And this day is a national holiday in Italy. Like many countries around the globe, however, despite strong ties to the Catholic Church, Italy’s family structure has been greatly impacted by divorce and other societal issues. So Father’s Day can help families of all shapes and sizes get back to basics, with St Joseph leading the way.

St. Joseph is loved and celebrated during Italy’s version of Father’s Day, so much so that you will notice numerous nativity-type scenes displayed in a variety of locations, based on his life. Bon fires are also lit across the country in his honor. Children make and/or write special Festa del Papa cards to their fathers and grandfathers as well as give them gifts. And being that this is Italy, no holiday would be complete without special dishes or dolce (sweets). In Italian American homes, round loaves of crusty bread, known as St. Joseph’s bread, are commonplace at our lunch and dinner tables. In Italy, it’s all about pastries for Papa including zeppole, which are delectable treats filled with cream or custard, and most common in Italy’s southern regions. Across the country, a cream puff like dessert, binge’ di San Giuseppe, is served. Not exactly good for those giving up sweet treats for Lent, but that is the tradition nonetheless, and a delicious one at that. Godere’, auguri papa, and san giuseppe prega per noi. Enjoy! Happy Father’s Day. And most importantly, St. Joseph pray for us.

The Other Trastevere

Italian street with tables and chairs

I love Trastevere, and so do most travelers to the eternal city. Trastevere means “beyond the Tiber.” It’s a very large “rione” or district of Rome. And quite frankly, what’s not to love? The neighborhood runs along the winding Tiber River and includes countless quaint cobblestone streets with some of the best restaurants and unique boutiques and shops in the eternal city, not to mention some of the most unique churches in Rome including the Basilica of Santa Maria in the main piazza, known for its incredible mosaics.

Visitors, however, often miss out because most tours stay in the busy area of Piazza Santa Maria. I always tell folks to find their way to what I like to call “the other Trastevere.” This area is a little under a mile from the main piazza, but it’s a world all of its own, nestled in the shadows of the magnificent Basilica of Santa Cecilia.

Basilica of Santa Cecilia, Rome

If you want to see where the Romans hang, as well as live, in Trastevere this is it. It’s much more relaxed, but still filled with great places at which to do as the Romans and the rest of the Italians do before cena, as in stop for an aperitivo to whet the appetite. And speaking of appetites, there are no shortages of excellent eateries including two of my favorites, da Enzo’s, and dar sor Olimpio al Drago. Even if you don’t have time to stop for a bowl of carbonara or amatriciana, at least allow yourself the experience of seeing the other side of one of the most popular areas of Rome.

It’s 5 O’clock Somewhere – Especially in Italy!

Italy is known for many things—including great food, great fashion, fun and refreshing cocktails. One of the unique drinks in Italy is the Aperol Spritz, an aperitif cocktail consisting of prosecco, Aperol and soda water. Aperol was discovered in 1919 and is made of gentian root (flowering herb), rhubarb, and cinchona (taken from a tree in South America – the same ingredient used in quinine), among other ingredients. Teresa Tomeo shares about this beautiful refreshing drink while she enjoys the sites along the Tiber River in Italy. Did you know that the Aperol Spritz ranks 9th on the list of the world’s bestselling cocktails? You should consider trying one on your next visit to Italy—whether it be 5 O’clock or whenever you want to enjoy this traditional Italian delight.

Click Here To Watch!

Zeppoli pastry

Zeppole di San Guiseppe!

My husband’s Aunt Margie was famous for her zeppole, so much so that during family gatherings my husband and his cousins would push their way to the front door to see who would have first crack on the traditional Italian delicacies. Aunt Margie made both the sweet and savory kind. Zeppole are basically made of fried dough with different fillings and toppings. Aunt Margie’s sweet zeppole were sprinkled with powdered sugar, and the savory stuffed with cheese or my favorite, anchovies.

In Italy, zeppole of the sweeter kind are a staple treat for Father’s Day, celebrated on March 19th, the feast of St. Joseph. They’re filled with a rich custard and topped with fruit as seen in this excellent recipe that is similar to Aunt Margie’s. Godare’!

St. Fina painting

St. Fina

I have been blessed to visit San Gimignano in Tuscany, more than once, but had not heard much about St. Fina (Seraphina), this gentle Italian saint, until my most recent visit to this village. She lived her very short life in the 13th century, and is beloved and greatly venerated to this day, in this special town outside of Siena.

Fina suffered greatly at an early age. Serious illness left her paralyzed and she spent several years lying on a board made of a wooden pallet rather than a bed. During her sickness she lost her parents, and afterward only one neighbor girl would care for her and bring her food. Church tradition has it that the great St. Gregory appeared to her and predicted the time of her death.

Despite all of the suffering, instead of complaining Fina thanked God for her numerous trials. She died on March 12th at the age of 15, and at the time of her death the church bells spontaneously began to ring. When her body was moved from her pallet beautiful, fragrant white violets grew where she had lain. Numerous miracles were attributed to her intercession curing townspeople who had crippled hands or legs and is the reason she is known as a patron of handicapped (or physically challenged) people.

St. Fina’s relics reside in the Early Renaissance Chapel of St. Fina in the Collegiate Church of Santa Maria Assunta in San Gimignano, Tuscany. There you will find two beautiful frescoes of scenes of her life painted by Domenico Ghirlandaio in 1478. This minor basilica also holds a Museum of Sacred Art.

Visit my Fun Facts, Travel Tips & Italian Saints Pages For More Interesting Info!

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Map of Italy

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Photos: Wikimedia Commons, Shutterstock: Nicola Forenza, iordani, Deborah Kolb, Takashi Images, OlgaBombologna, marekuliasz