Foiano Carnival: historical and culinary tradition

The tradition of Carnival in Italy is very widespread and has its roots in the Greek and Roman customs of the celebrations for Dionysus and the Saturnalia. The elegant Carnival of Venice is certainly known all over the world, but it is in Tuscany that the oldest and most extravagant celebrations of this holiday are found. To accompany the parades of allegorical floats in Tuscany we find not only confetti but also a culinary tradition that has spanned the centuries. 

The oldest Carnival in Italy is located in Foiano della Chiana

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Italy is a country rich in history and tradition and in this context even the carnival celebrations are no exception. Thanks to written testimonies it has been discovered that in Foiano della Chiana, a village in the province of Arezzo, the carnival has been celebrated since 1539. From what was found, unfortunately, it is not possible to understand with certainty how the celebrations were celebrated. What is known however is that even then the participants could enjoy together with Vin Santo sweet details called "rags".

The rags: from the Romans frictilia to the Piedmontese lies

I texts found in Foiano that speak of the carnival also describe the culinary traditions and their change over time. If there is one thing that does not vary, however, it is the presence of "rags", a typical dessert of the carnival period that is found throughout Italy. If the tradition of rags has not changed, however, it is certainly the name that is given to it. If we want to order a tray in Lombardy we should ask for "chat", in Piedmont instead "le bugie", in Veneto "i galani". The Accademia della Crusca has recorded at least 50 variations on the name for this typical dessert. Their first known name, however, is the one known since the time of ancient Rome, or "frictilia", which recalls the shape of the cake, similar to a piece of cloth. The same parallelism has inspired the Tuscan term of “rag”, which in dialect means a piece of cloth. 

How to taste rags at the Foiano Carnival

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As in 1539, even today during the parade of allegorical floats of Carnival of Foiano you can immerse yourself in the culinary tradition typical of the place and of the period. In various locations scattered throughout the village there are local housewives intent on cooking various products live, including rags. Tradition has it that they can be cooked either by frying them or by passing them in the oven but the housewives will serve them strictly fried. The only thing you can choose is whether to enjoy them with powdered sugar, granulated sugar or plain. But if you want to enjoy them at their full splendor, it is highly recommended to accompany them with a good glass of Vin Santo.

Photo by Luca Daviddi