The arrival of Christmas, here in Borgomaro, is announced by the yummy scent that hovers among the alleys: Aunt Bruna has been busy for weeks baking the very famous “Panettun du Burgu“, the traditional Pandolce that has been created for decades by her bakery, “Il Forno di Nonna Pierina” in Via Merano, 36.
And the only secret recipe for the Pandolce di Borgomaro was the one grandmother Pierina, Bruna’s mother, created: not really a panettone, nor a classic Genoese pandolce, but a recipe all in itself! The ingredients are simple: flour, eggs, sugar, pine nuts, raisins and orange; so simple that once every family prepared it at home on Christmas Eve, and there was nothing more beautiful than sharing it as a festive greeting.
Traditionally, in the city of Genoa, the pandolce was served decorated with a sprig of laurel, that the youngest of the family removed before the eldest cut the sweet into slices and distributed to all the diners, setting one slice aside for the poor. The ritual that accompanied the cutting of the pandolce underlines the importance of continuing the traditions within the family.
During Christmas, the family also returns as the protagonist on another very traditional stage, this one wearing the shades of white and moss: the Nativity scene.
Anyone wandering through the valleys and along the coast can stop and admire real works of art, representations of the Birth of Jesus. (Click here to see the best nativity scene in Liguria), and also the beautiful Nativity on the Borgomaro river which for some years now has made our stream even more romantic!
But there is one tradition that warms my heart more than the others, and it is the collection of “Strenne” (traditional Christmas presents) in the town of Conio, in the Alta Valle Impero (the town of Martina’s grandparents).
A custom that goes back to Ancient Rome and that in this little town had been reinterpreted: despite the tradition would be exchanging gifts, here there was no real swap of presents…and that was the lovely thing!
Yes, because the gifts were simply bags full of sweets that grandmothers prepared for every child in town. The custom was that children, during the first days of the new year, wandered around the village and when knocking on the doors of sweet grandmothers had their arms filled with a myriad of gifts and candies as a good wish. In exchange? The pure joy in the eyes of all the children, whom for one day felt like real kings and queens.
There is no doubt about it: the countryside, at Christmas, is like a big family!
And from our small town, we all wish you a wonderful Christmas, together with your loved ones.