The Year of Dante: Learning to Love Italy’s Greatest Poet

It was dislike at first sight.  Everything about Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) put me off. As artists traditionally portrayed him, the medieval poet seemed a ferocious grump with a big beak, jutted chin, petulant sneer, and hooded eyes. Although writers like William...

La Befana, Italy’s Beloved Holiday Witch

Long after many Americans have taken down their Christmas trees and packed away the decorations, Italians continue to celebrate. The final feast is l’Epifania (Epiphany), on January 6, which commemorates the arrival of the three kings, or the Magi, who followed the...

Italy’s New Year Celebrations

In ancient times, the new year began in the Spring. In 153 B.C., the Romans moved the start of a new year to January 1 and dedicated the first month to Janus, the two-faced god who looks back toward the old year and ahead toward the new one. For six days, Romans...

The Sights and Sounds of an Italian Christmas

“Natale con i tuoi; Pasqua con chi vuoi,” Italians say. “Christmas with your family; Easter with whomever you want.” An Italian Christmas centers on casa (home) and stare insieme in famiglia (being together as a family). But even at a distance the sights and sounds of...