Umbria Blog | Christmas in Paciano and Panicale

On December 8 is the yearly Feast of the Immaculate Conception in Italy. The day before in every small town or city the Italian people prepare the Christmas tree. Many activities and festivities are held around the Christmas season. The squares are transformed into a mix of lights and stalls where vendors sell their handmade gifts.

Yearly I visit the Christmas markets in Assisi and Perugia, but this time I wanted to go to the market in Paciano. Paciano is a small and calm hamlet with a few inhabitants.

Maybe I didn’t come at the right time in Paciano, but there weren’t many market stalls and visitors. I have asked a local for the program but neither he couldn’t inform me.

After a good espresso in the bar I decided to take a walk through the centre just to be sure that I didn’t miss anything. Maybe there were only three market stalls hidden in local shops. This Christmas market wasn’t really what I was looking for, unfortunately. Nevertheless, I took some pictures and I went to Panicale, a lovely village not far form Paciano.

Before arriving in Panicale I knew I could not expect more Christmas market than in Paciano, but on the other hand Panicale is lovely and always worth a visit. Even if you decide to take a drink or just a stroll in the historical centre.

On the square in Panicale was a huge Christmas tree. Also the bars and restaurants were full with Christmas decorations.

To be honest this all wasn’t really what I expected before visiting Paciano and Panicale. Both villages seemed to be a bit lost. But I must admit, Panicale and Paciano remain idyllic even though in winter time there are less things to see and to do.

Celebrate Christmas in Assisi Umbria

La Magia del Natale, the magic of Christmas, is a yearly event in Assisi. Here are some pictures to get into the Christmas atmosfere.

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– Post by Sylvia van der Male –

Christmas traditions

As every year and everywhere in the world also in Umbria the preparations for Christmas are on the way. There are many Christmas initiatives, markets, Christmas cribs inside and outside. In Gubbio the largest Christmas tree in the world has been lit again.

At home the Umbrians prepare themselves for the main family event of the year. In lots of families the cappelletti are already made (pasta filled with meat). They will eat these on Christmas Day followed by a meat dish, whilst on Christmas eve fish is on the menu.

During this period in the local bakeries of the Perugia area one can buy the “torciglione” cake. Many women make this old recipe at home and one often can have a taste when invited in Umbrian homes during this period. The torciglione has the form of a snake and is made with lots of almonds, an egg yolk and sugar.

It is thought that this typical cake with the snake like shape has its origins at Lake Trasimeno. One says that already in ancient times, before the existence of Christmas, the people at the lake made a similar cake around the 21st of December when the days start to lengthen. The round shape symbolised the end of the old year and the beginning of a new year.

It is also said that the name torciglione comes from Medieval times. At that time there were monks living at the lake’s island Maggiore. They had unexpected visitors sent by the pope. Since the lake was frozen they had not been able to fish lately, and they made dinner with the ingredients they still had. One of the monks made the snake like almonds cake. The form not being from a snake, but being similar to the “anguilla”, eel from the lake. They called it torciglione.

There is another story from medieval times saying that the snake like shape represents the snake from the Apocalyps. Once cut and eaten the snake will be defeated. To this day the torciglione has scales made from pinetree nuts or almonds on his back and the eyes have a dark or red color (often coffee beans) like the tempting eyes of the devil, of evil that has to be defeated.

Whatever the real story is, the almond cake is excellent and many Umbrians do not know the ancient traditions anymore. It is just one of these typical christmas traditions that are being kept alive generation upon generation in this part of Umbria.

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– Post by Saskia van der Bolt –