THE FLIGHT OF THE COLOMBINA: EASTER IN GREVE IN CHIANTI

Easter is celebrated well in Italy and, in years where there is not a pandemic, there is a gathering in the local piazza after mass, followed by a hearty (and long) family lunch. Greve is particularly good at this.

The “Colombina” or little dove flies across Piazza Matteotti leaving from the church of Santa Croce, rocketing across the square at record speed and kicking out a plume of smoke in its wake. The lit dove then returns across the piazza and, if it makes the return journey successfully, it is a sign that the year will go well – an auspicious signal for the grape harvest in these parts. It is a wonderful sight and all of Greve comes out to cheer the dove on its way.

Pasquetta (Easter Monday) normally brings colour, scents and stories to the piazza with a market full of antiques and trinkets. There is always a dust-covered curiosity to pick up and much local nattering to be overheard. These are wonderful traditions that bring the community together – and we cannot wait for the day when Piazza Matteotti is full of life once again.

Much of the celebration of Easter, as you might expect, revolves around the table, the centre piece of which is La Colomba. This festive cake is similar to panettone and has a deep history (that naturally varies from region to region). One of our favourite legends is that the colomba originated in Milan and was baked to commemorate the 1176 Lombardian victory over the Holy Roman Empire, when two doves appeared on the battleground as a sign of peace.

As it happens, La Colomba has only really been an important part of the Italian Easter since the 1930s but today it is intrinsic to Pasqua celebrations. For those of you who won’t be in Italy this year for Easter, we thought we would share a recipe for La Colomba with you to bake at home and fill your table with the flavours of this wonderful land.

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