Easter does not arrive on the table of the Italians if "Colomba" (dove) is missing. The Easter cake takes its name from its shape of a dove, which in the Christian tradition is a symbol of peace and love and well alongside the egg that represents the Resurrection.
Behind the origin of this dessert, at least as we know it today, there is a mainly commercial operation of the Milanese company Motta, already specialized in the industrial production of Panettone. Milan, 1930s: the Mantuan artist and advertiser Dino Villani, creator of the competition that will later become Miss Italy, comes up with the idea of using the same machinery that Motta used for Panettone, to create a new Easter cake with a very similar recipe. This is how the Easter "Colomba" was born and success was immediate.
However, it is likely that Easter cakes in the shape of a dove already existed in Lombardy because there are various legends about this cake. The first in 572, when King Alboin besieged the city of Pavia. After three years, the Pavesi surrendered to the barbarians and, to avoid their fury, they gave them sweets in the shape of a dove. This gesture of peace averted the sacking and earned Pavia the title of capital of the new Lombard kingdom.
Also set in Lombard Pavia, another legend tells that, around 610, Queen Theodolinda hosted a group of Irish pilgrims led by San Colombano and offered them a sumptuous banquet. Since they were in Lent, the saint declined the offer but ended up offending the sovereign. The diplomatic incident was avoided because the saint blessed the banquet miraculously transforming it into white doves of bread.
According to the last legend, the origin of the dove dates back to the battle of Legnano (1176), when the Municipalities of the Lombard League defeated Emperor Frederick Barbarossa. The leader, after seeing two doves alight on the insignia of the League, interpreted it as a good omen and had his loaves in the shape of a dove, to encourage his men. And it worked.
Whatever the origin of this dessert, now in Italy on Easter day everyone buys and gives their loved ones a "Colomba".
Read more about Easter on the blog:
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