It has been obvious for days that Easter is nearly upon us here in Florence: the churches offer more religious ceremonies, the streets are clogged with more and more tourists, and Easter merchandise has dominated the stores. It is impossible to avoid Easter or not notice it in this town. In the States, Easter nearly passes me by with just a few chocolate bunnies and sugary Peeps in the stores.
Here, I am fascinated by the large and colorful Easter chocolate eggs that also usually contain a surprise inside. The shiny foil or colorful fabric wrappings shimmer in the shop windows and in the supermarket aisles. It seems that Easter eggs should not be a realistic egg-size but the bigger the better. Most of the ones I have seen are ten inches taller or even more. The surprises inside can vary from more chocolate truffles to toys and even jewelry.
Eggs definitely dominate more than chickens or bunnies here in the Easter food and decor. If it is not in egg shape, the food seems to have to be in dove-shape. “La Colomba” is a dove-shaped sponge cake (with a lot of imagination I can see a flying dove, but without the name I would have guessed a misshapen four-leave clover). The cakes come with candied orange peel or chocolate or cream filling or no filling at all.
Surprisingly, I have not seen any lambs or lamb-shaped cakes, which I am used to from Austria. The cakes also come packed with bottles of sweet spumante/sparkling wine, so I am assuming the cake is paired with alcohol and not only with coffee and tea as I would have assumed. The “dove-cake” is very similar in texture and taste to the Italian Christmas cake, panettone or pandoro.
Stores are decorated with spring flowers; Italians have switched from dark blue, black, or green downjackets to light blue, white, and pink short-sleeved downjackets; I can hear the clop-clop of the hooves of horses pulling tourists in carriages through my street – it is clear that Easter is just around the corner. If you are celebrating Easter, I hope you have a wonderful holiday.