Note dal traduttore

 Cicerchiate -  Dolce tipico del periodo di Carnevale, ha origini antiche. Prodotto tradizionalmente familiare, è passato all'artigianato e si trova oggi in tutte le pasticcerie. Si tratta di farina impastata con uova, poco zucchero e un goccio di mistrà, il liquore marchigiano caratteristico a base di anice. Vengono formate delle piccole pallottoline di pasta che vanno fritte in olio o strutto, amalgamate con miele e composte in forma di ciambella piuttosto piatta, talvolta cosparsa di pinoli.
A Napoli lo stesso dolce si chiama Strufoli e si regalono i piatti come
doni a Natale; cicerchiate sono anche molto simile al dolce Siciliano Pignolata, bensi  questi in genere sono coperti con una glassa di zucchero e bianco di uova oppure con cioccolato invece di miele. Tutti questi tipi di dolce in genere sono poi cosparsi con zuccheri colorati, palline di argento e pinoli e staranno freschi per alcune settimane se conservati in luogo fresco.

Castagnole -  Questi dolci sono d'obbligo nel periodo carnevalizio ed ancora oggi, in taluni luoghi, vengono preparati anche di mezza Quaresima. Nel primo quarto di secolo, al tempo in cui erano già di moda veglioni danzanti, soprattutto nei paesi, ogni famiglia partecipante alla festa portava la sua scorta di castagnole e, a mezzanotte, interrotte le danze, avveniva lo scambio generale di auguri e dolci. Nelle città, sempre nel corso dei veglioni, a mezzanotte aveva luogo un cenone, a base di piatti freddi, che si chiudeva con le immancabili castagnole. 




Collective Letter to a Friend Living in Francavilla


Dear Andrea,


How are you? Is everything all right? We’re sorry we’re a bit late in writing to you, but only today have we had any free time to tell you about some fabulous news. On Saturday, 24th February, we had a party in our school for Carnevale with a small theatrical production. The gym was under attack from children wearing the strangest costumes. Marco was dressed as a black cat with eyes as yellow as saffron; just imagine, everyone crossed their fingers[1] when they saw him!

Alessandro, the smallest, used coloured paper to transform his old overalls into a Harlequin costume. Menina looked like a real Chinese person and Daniela, with her little starched white cap and her sky-blue dress, impersonated Columbine like a real actress; and then there were… little Negroes, ladies, princesses, cow-boys and many traditional masks. Other companions had plundered the chest-of-drawers in their lofts, full of worn-out dusty old clothes. Our parents, always ready to applaud us, occupied the stalls, whilst we students were on the stage taking part in a lovely show. The choir launched the show, followed by the prologue interpreted by Alessandro (Harlequin) and by Filippo (Punch). Then the play “The Black Cat” (Il gatto nero) began, with us, the pupils of Class 3, as the actors. Then it was the turn of Class 1 with “The Bewitched Cradle” (La culla fatata), followed by Class 4 doing “Imaginary Illnesses in Doctor Balanzone’s Surgery” (Malattie immaginarie nello studio del dottor Balanzone) and then Class 2 with “The Greasy Mask” (La maschera fritellaia) and “a Funny Story” (Una buffa storiella).

At the end of the show we came down off the stage amidst general applause and we had high jinks dancing, throwing streamers[2], confetti and shooting stars and there was lots of larking about. There was an infernal din in the gym and, whilst the gramophone played happy carefree songs, many of us were enjoying the traditional cakes: cicerchiate[3] (little cinnamon flavoured fried balls covered in honey), frittelle (flapjacks/pancakes), castagnole[4] (fried dough balls) and frappe (milkshakes).

At the end of the party there was a deep layer of confetti and shooting stars on the floor forming a huge flowering field. We all were sweaty, overheated and tired, but ever so happy. What a pity! We’ll have to wait a whole year to have another party as joyous as this one. As you know, our village doesn’t offer much in the way of amusements; there aren’t any parades, or floats, nor can we admire that constantly changing medley of images and colours that you enjoy in Francavilla, in fact there were very few children in masks and costumes on our village streets and only a meagre smattering of confetti and streamers. Oh, certainly! Carnevale would not be celebrated at all if it weren’t for the school giving us some pizzazz and cheer! Now we ask you please to tell us about your Carnevale in your next letter which will certainly be more exciting and fantastic than ours was.

A huge cheerio from all of us in Class 3, Torricella.   

Translator’s Notes:

[1] crossed their fingers – to ward off ill-luck – because in Italy a black cat crossing your path is seen as an omen of ill fortune; in the UK it’s quite the opposite – it is thought to bring good luck!
[2]  streamers and confetti – “stelle filanti” – in Italy can also be a sort of firework like a Roman Candle…


in addition, nowadays, “stella filante” can also be silly string …..  

[3]  cicerchiate -


This is a typical sweet for the period of Carnevale which has ancient origins. Traditionally made in the home, nowadays they are made by craftspeople and can be found in all cake shops. They are made from flour and eggs with very little sugar and a drop of rum or Mistrà (a local aniseed flavoured liqueur, found mostly in Le Marche). Tiny little pellet-like balls of the pastry are fried in oil or lard, mixed with honey and heaped into characteristic flattish ring-shapes on a plate.

In Naples the same sweet is called Strufoli and plates of it are given as gifts at Christmas; cicerchiate are also very similar to the Sicilian sweet Pignolata, though the latter are coated with a sugar and egg white glaze or a chocolate glaze instead of honey. All of these types of cake are usually decorated with sprinkles (confectioner’s sugar strands), silver balls and pine nuts and they will stay fresh for weeks if they are kept in a cool place. 

[4]  - Castagnole -             These cakes are almost obligatory during Carnevale. In the 1920’s and 30’s when public masked balls were held especially in the villages, each family taking part would bring their own supply of castagnole and at midnight they interrupted the dancing to greet each other and eat the cakes. In the large towns and cities at these masked balls there would be a banquet of cold dishes which always ended with the ever-present castagnole.

Translation courtesy of Dr. Marion Apley Porreca   

© Amici di Torricella         Year II        No 1  April 1990  page 4