Father’s Day in Italy

Italian Father's Day

How to celebrate “Festa del Papà” like an Italian

Father’s Day is celebrated differently around the world, but Italy might take the cake on how to make the day the sweetest for dads. From custom-made cards and sentimental gifts to a signature desert dedicated to Saint Joseph (the first “earthly” father figure), Father’s Day in Italy is full of religious and cultural traditions. Read on to learn everything you need to know about Father’s Day in Italy, including how to celebrate the holiday like a true Italian.

When is Father’s Day in Italy?

The date of Father’s Day varies from country to country around the world, depending on religion and tradition. For Americans and Brits, Father’s Day is celebrated on the third Sunday of June. In Australia, it is observed on the first Sunday of September. In Italy, as in all Catholic European countries, Father’s Day is always celebrated on March 19th. In Italian, Father’s Day is Festa del Papà.

Why do Italians celebrate Father’s Day on March 19?

Since the Middles Ages, March 19th has been recognized as the Festa di San Giuseppe, the annual celebration of Saint Joseph. Saint Joseph, known simply as “Joseph” to native English speakers, was the husband of the Virgin Mary. Though he is not Jesus’s biological father, he serves as a symbol of paternity in Catholicism due to his role in Jesus’s upbringing. Over the centuries, likely due to the influence of other international Father’s Day celebrations, the celebration of Saint Joseph and the celebration of fatherhood merged into one. Today, Italian Father’s Day is still connected to its Catholic roots, but it is also a highly personal holiday during which children shower their fathers with affection, treats, and gifts.

How do Italians celebrate Father’s Day?

Similar to non-Catholic countries, in Italy, children celebrate Father’s Day by making cards and giving sentimental gifts to their fathers. Sweets are also central to Father’s Day in Italy. Families traditionally share cakes and sweets in honor of the holiday. According to the Gran Caffe Gambrinus website, there are two stories behind these traditions. The first comes from the story of Joseph selling pancakes to support his family after they fled to Egypt. Following this theory, eating and sharing sweets on March 19 came to symbolize Joseph’s paternal commitment to his family.

The second story is based on Saint Joseph’s role as the patron saint of carpenters: before Father’s Day became a national holiday in 1968, Italians celebrated Saint Joseph on March 19 by exchanging wooden toys and trinkets. When Festa di San Guiseppe became synonymous with Festa del Papà, the Grambrinus website describes, “the roles were reversed and the children began the long tradition of giving gifts to their father.” Somewhere along the line, the practices of sweets-indulging and gift-giving merged, turning March 19 into a spectacular celebration of Saint Joseph and fathers everywhere.

Italian Father's day

What is the signature dessert of Italian Father’s Day?

You can always count on Italy to have a specific treat dedicated to a special occasion. When it comes to Father’s Day, tradition does not disappoint. The classic sweets of Italian Father’s Day are Bignè di San Giuseppe, fried cream puffs filled with custard and rolled in powdered sugar. Bignè di San Giuseppe can be found in pastry shops around Italy year-round, but most prominently around Father’s Day.

Bignè di San Giuseppe are closely related to Zeppole di San Giuseppe. Zeppole di San Giuseppe are fried swirls of puff pastry filled with an elegant swirl of custard, dusted with powdered sugar, and topped with a candied cherry. Zeppole di San Giuseppe were invented by Ippolito Cavalcanti, a Duke from Naples, in the 1800s. Bignè di San Giuseppe are the Roman version of the celebratory sweet, so, unsurprisingly, the best Bignè di San Giuseppe can be found right here in Rome.

Where can I find the best Bignè di San Giuseppe in Rome?

The Romeing staff have come up with a concise list of where to find the best Bignè di San Giuseppe (in no particular order): Dolci Desideri is a traditional Roman pasticceria (pastry shop) with locations in the Monteverde district and in San Paolo. Bompiani, also known as Pasticceria Walter Musco, is a high end pasticceria in the Ardeatino neighborhood where pastry meets art. Pasticceria Bompiani also offers delivery options through their website. Regoli, located in the heart of Rome’s historical centre, has offered top-quality Roman pastries since 1916. Gruè is a chic, sleek pasticceria in Quartiere Trieste where pastry and style go hand-in-hand. Andreotti, located in Ostiense since 1931, offers an extensive array of expertly made pastries. Lastly, Linari is a decadent pasticceria in Testaccio that has been in operation since 1971. Each of these pastry shops offer some of the best Bignè di San Giuseppe in all of Rome. Try one or try all to see for yourself–in honor of Father’s Day, of course.

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