It is time to start getting serious about Christmas!
I’m writing today from my old bedroom in my hometown Como, Italy. I’ve come here to spend the holidays with my family, so why not talking about the glorious Italian food? If you are traveling to Italy in this period of the year, ask the locals if they prefer panettone or pandoro. Since when I was a child, this was the question I used to here all the time at Christmas.
Both of them are delicious desserts traditionally served during Christmas day. Italians tend to feel quite strongly about preferring one or the other, like it was a football team. For example, I was shocked when I found out that my boyfriend prefers panettone (I am a pandoro fan, of course!) and we’ve started to argue about which one was the best.
HISTORY OF PANETTONE
Panettone was invented in Milan, and is probably the most famous of the two. The origin of the name is not sure, but it could mean”big bread” (pane = bread, and all Italian words that end in “one” indicate something big).
I’ve done a bit of research and found out that this tradition started in the Middle Ages. Back then people used to eat a special bread only on Christmas day. Indeed, panettone contains raisins and other candied fruits to make it sweet and the bread itself is very soft.
Today, you can find a tall and short version (the tall one is the most popular but the original was short) and all sorts of variation including chocolate, lemon and whatever you can think of. But my advise it to try the traditional version first.
HISTORY OF PANDORO
The history of pandoro is more recent and certain. Pandoro was invented in Verona (you know, the city of Romeo and Juliet) in 1884, when Domenico Melegatti patented this sweet cake with the peculiar star shape.
However, a similar dessert was typical of the rich Republic of Venice (very close to Verona) in the XV century. It was a cake with eatable gold on it and the name probably comes from there. Indeed, pandoro means bread of gold. Pane, as you now know, means bread, and “oro” means “gold”.
WHERE YOU CAN BUY PANETTONE OR PANDORO
This question is very easy. If you go to Italy this Christmas, you will find them literally everywhere! You can buy cheap ones at the supermarket and all over Italy, not just in Milan or Verona. If you want to try a more sophisticated (and generally better) version you should buy it in a bakery, although it is far more expensive. My suggestion is to try both before from a supermarket and then, if you are a real foodie, buy one at the bakery!
WHERE YOU DON’T FIND PANETTONE OR PANDORO
If you’re traveling to Italy during Christmas time, please keep in mind that you will not find panettone or pandoro at the restaurant. Whichever region you go to, Italians like to eat them at home. It may be that restaurants in touristic areas offer them as dessert. But if you want to experience this real Italian tradition, go and buy one!