La Befana – brooms, coal and delicious traditional Italian food!

La Befana dolls are found in most Italian homes for La Befana on 6th January. Photo by Square87

Italian children may well be the luckiest in the world. Just a short time after Christmas, on the 6th January, there’s La Befana. The strange idea behind it is that on the Epiphany eve, an old witch hops on her broom to deliver sweets to children, meaning they wake up on the 6th to find a stocking full of goodies.

Naughty children however will find only coal left behind! Luckily for them, these days there is also coal-shaped candy to get the message across in a much sweeter way.

Being a nice old witch (albeit not much to look at), La Befana is also said to sweep the floor for you. You in exchange are required to leave out a little glass of wine for her, which seems only fair really.

We tried leaving out an entire bottle next to some bathroom cleaning products to see if it might entice her to do a little more housework while she was at it, but alas it was to no avail.

La Befana is said to have been doing her housework when the 3 Wisemen passed by her house. Being that she was in the middle of cleaning, she did not go with them. Once her chores were completed however, she went looking for the 3 Wisemen and the baby Jesus to give him a gift. Not having found him, she continues to visit each house leaving gifts along the way, hoping to leave a gift for baby Jesus.

There’s even a song about her. There are many versions of the words, but the tune is the same.

This is one version learnt by an Artviva Florence city centre walking tour guide:
La befana vien di notte
con le scarpe tutte rotte
porta un sacco pien di doni
da regalare ai bimbi buoni

This basically translates to something like this:
La Befana comes in the night
with shoes all broken
carrying a sack full of gifts
to give to good kids

As with any special day in Italy, it’s a day when Italian families gather for a special lunch of plate after plate of delicious, home-made traditional Italian recipes passed down through the generations.

Dessert is often Panetone, traditional Italian Christmas cake that are given as gifts with a bottle of Spumante sparkling wine, which most Italian homes will have leftover from Christmas.

La Befana marks the official end of the festival season. In the afternoon or the next day, the Christmas decorations are put away until the next year. Shops are usually closed in preparation for the post-Christmas sales that commence the day after.

If you’d like to learn more about Italian culture and history in situ, we have small-group guided walking tours in Florence, guided walks to tour Rome and guided tours of Venice with our expert tour guides, throughout which you can learn about the fascinating history of Italy whilst surrounded by the spectacular historical city centres of these must-see Italian cities!

If you’re interested in learning about Italian culture whilst sipping Italian wines, and enjoying a delicious lunch in Tuscany, we also have a great range of high-quality, small-group Tuscany tours. You can also email us on staff@artviva.com for more information.

About Artviva Tours, Italy

We at ArtViva love sharing the beauty of life in the Bel Paese, from Italian art, history and culture to the wonderful food and wine and everything in between! Live the experience along with us through our articles and informative posts, and be sure to check out our outstanding small-group tours and experiences in Florence, Venice, Rome, Cinque Terre and beyond.
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6 Responses to La Befana – brooms, coal and delicious traditional Italian food!

  1. Stigger says:

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  3. Jess Parker says:

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  4. Scott says:

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  5. Emel B says:

    Woah this weblog is great i really like reading your posts. Stay up the great work!

  6. Lebron says:

    Hi there , i had not idea about this great tradition. We are visitng Italy in January and will book a Florence tour.