Italy Roundtable: Two sweet stories from Italy

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You probably already know that I love stories. The stories behind Italian words and neighborhoods. Stories can help modern items be more interesting and can even fill in the historical gaps of traditional traditions that are not being questioned by locals (because they already know the significance). Travelers who don’t have it can use stories to provide context and make otherwise mundane objects or places more interesting.

When we decided to make SWEET the topic of this month’s Italy Roundtable, I knew that I could not just give you a list with some Italian desserts and leave it at that. I wanted to tell you more about two of them and explain why they are more than dessert.

These are edible pieces of Italian history.


Confetti is a word you may be familiar with. It refers to tiny pieces of paper that are thrown in the air during celebrations. You may be able to see that it is clearly Italian now that you have seen it on this website.

Confettare is an Italian verb that literally means to sweeten. Confetti is a noun that refers to almonds with hard sugar shells. They are also known as Jordan almonds. However, the name Jordan doesn’t refer to a country or person. These sweets are a form of the festive sweets that dates back to ancient Rome. In Rome, nuts and seeds coated in honey were used to celebrate important occasions like weddings and births.

Sulmona decorative confetti arrangements

Now, fast-forward to late 18th-century Sulmona (in present-day Abruzzo), where the Pelino family started their confetti-making company. Yes, they are still at it today. Sulmona is not the only town that makes confetti. But this town has been the epicenter of Italian confetti-making since more than 200 years.

Confetti can be given as gifts or thrown when celebrating events such as weddings, anniversaries and graduations. They can be arranged in flowers or bundled together for party favors. It is also important to note the color of the confetti in Italy. White for weddings, blue for baptisms and red for graduations.

Visit Sulmona for an amazing array of confetti options and to learn more at the Pelino museum. Remember this next time you throw little pieces of paper into the air.


Naples is known as the birthplace for pizza. But, to satisfy your sweet tooth in Campania Capital you’ll have to look in the pastry cabinet – and twisting your mouth around an Italian word.

yah The smooth version is sfogliatella frolla, but the original recipe uses the multilayered pastry sfogliatella riccia. It is not known how the “frolla version” came about.

Sfogliatelle dates back to the 17th Century, when nuns from Santa Rosa Monastery, Conca dei Marini, made a pastry that looked a lot like the sisters’ hats. They filled it with milk-and flour mixture, sugar, candied fruit, and topped it off with pastry cream and strawberries. Santa Rosa was the nuns’ saint-named new dessert. They kept the recipe secret for over 150 years.

Pasquale Pintauro, a Naples pastry chef, had obtained the recipe in the early 19th century. He began selling modified sfogliatelle at his shop in 1818. He removed the cream-and berries topping and altered the shape to make it more shell-like. Pintauro’s pastry shop is still open in Naples, on Via Toledo. It is renowned for its delicious sfogliatelle.

These pastries are heavier than you would expect due to their dense filling. This is not a light snack. It is important to note that the best sfogliatelle should be eaten warm and not cold.

Buon Appetito

Do you have a favorite Italian sweet that you love? Is there a story to it?

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4 Responses to “Italy Roundtable – Two Sweet Italian Stories”

  • Kath has the following:

    Amazing photos of the arrangements and confetti flowers from Sulmona. This is the most elaborate confetti I’ve ever seen. Good call about the heavy sfogliatella. They are delicious, but not a meal in and of themselves. There’s nothing better than feeling the crispy layers between your teeth and crunching them down. And if you have ricotta, it’s even better.


    • Jess has the following:

      Yes, sfogliatella tastes wonderful. The first time I received one at the pastry counter, I remember being stunned. I thought it was a small bowling ball. Thank you for your comment!


  • Luca explains:

    These are two great articles on classic Italian sweets. However, if you want to find Sulmona in Abruzzo and not Tuscany, it will be found there.


    • Jess has the following:

      Oh my! Thank you so much, Luca, for catching that mistake. Although I knew that Sulmona was located in Abruzzo, I don’t know how this mistake made it into the article. It’s now fixed! Grazie!


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