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Pesach or “Pasqua Ebraica” in Italy presents a Unique Blend of Italian Jewish Culture and Tradition

Date 04.03.2015

Pesach is the one of the biggest festivals in Jewish calendar celebrated by Jewish community all across the globe. Italy, too, offers a rich tapestry of Jewish cultural expressions apart from its unparalleled natural beauty and remarkable artistic achievements. The major elements of the festival include family gatherings, the Seder meal, feasting and making merry. The Jews in Italy celebrate this day in the traditional way, though there are some exceptions to the rules and rituals. Explore more on how Pesach is celebrated in Italy in the write-up here.

HISTORY: The Arrival Of The Jews In Italy
Since the arrival of Jews in Italy in 2nd century BC, the tradition of celebrating Pesach festival has been assimilated into culture of Italian Jews. Italian Jews have developed their own unique style and tradition of cooking Pesach dishes. Even though the basic tradition of serving the Seder meal remains the same, the traditional Seder plate is presented on the Seder table with great pomp, joy and merriment. Often the presentation of Seder meal is accompanied by singing traditional songs. The Seder meal consists of Italian styled Jewish delicacies such as carpione, carciofi alla romana and bresaola, matzoh lasagna, Haroset all’italiana, tortino di azzine, and insalata alla Sefardita. However, the universal Pesach tradition of cutting the middle of the three cakes of matza or the unleavened bread is observed in Italy with same fervor, devotion, gaiety and enthusiasm.

CUISINE: Italian Pesach Delicacies
Although the city of Venice, located in northeastern Italy, has been a hub of Jews, the Italian Jewish food is highly influenced by the Roman cuisine and is quite different from the Sephardic Jews of Spain and the Middle East as well as the Ashkenazy Jews of Northern and Eastern Europe. The Traditional Roman menu for Pesach begins with Haroset all’italiana, a paste-like mixture of ground dates, oranges, raisins and figs; carciofi alla romana and bresaola or air-cured beef with arugula and lemon; carpione, cubes of fried white fish marinated in an herb vinaigrette with caramelized onions; and stracciatella, an egg-drop soup. The main course of the Italian Seder includes tortino di azzine, matzoh lasagna made from vegetables and lamb together with insalata alla Sefardita, a salad of romaine, dill and green onions with red wine vinaigrette. The desserts generally comprise of ricciarelli di Siena and rich almond-paste cookies rolled up in powdered sugar.