International Women’s Day, known in Italy as Festa della Donna, takes place on March 8. The global holiday is a day that sheds light on the women’s rights movement and brings attention to issues such as gender equality, reproductive rights, and violence and abuse against women. While the holiday has always been rooted in political feminist protests and manifestations, the day has also taken on a cultural undertone where women take the opportunity to celebrate sisterhood and solidarity. Each year in Italy, La Festa della Donna is celebrated in three unique ways, all of which revolve around the color yellow.
Below are three Italian traditions to celebrate Festa della Donna:
Gifting Mimosa Flowers
The mimosa is an evergreen shrub or tree that blooms in the late winter to early spring. Its flowers are fluffy clusters of yellow balls that give off a light, pleasant aroma. They bloom in earnest around the country during the month of March and are Italy’s unofficial symbol of Festa della Donna.
In 1946, female activists Rita Montagna and Teresa Mattei decided to mark International Women’s Day by gifting fellow women branches of the vibrant yellow mimosa flower. The flower was used as a symbol for sisterhood and respect, according to NPR, chosen because despite its delicate appearance, it is tough and can survive in difficult situations, just like women.
These flowers are sold in bundles everywhere across the country, and are meant to be given to women by the important men in their lives: husbands, boyfriends, brothers, fathers, and sons. They can also, of course, be gifted between women in a display of solidarity and sisterhood. The flowers are usually sold in grocery stores and at flower stands for anywhere between €5 and €10.
Baking and Snacking on Mimosa Cake
A torta mimosa is made from layers of sponge cake sandwiched between thick spreads of lemon-flavored pastry cream, brushed with citrus liquor, and topped with small cubes of sponge cake to make the treat resemble a bouquet of mimosas.
This cake is considered to be the country’s official dessert of the day. The citrus liquor with which the cake is infused varies from limoncello to orange Cointreau. Sometimes, the cake is sandwiched between both lemon-scented pastry cream and dollops of fresh lemon curd.
Going Out and Eating Yellow-Colored Foods
The mimosa theme, and the color yellow, doesn’t only apply to the mimosa cake. Restaurants around the country will serve a range of yellow-colored foods for the day. While menus vary between establishments, it’s common to see mimosa eggs (the ancient Roman version of American deviled eggs) and a variety of saffron-infused pasta and risotto dishes.
Asia London Palomba
Asia London Palomba is a trilingual freelance journalist from Rome, Italy. In the past, her work on culture, travel, and history has been published in The Boston Globe, Atlas Obscura, The Christian Science Monitor, and Grub Street, New York Magazine's food section. In her free time, Asia enjoys traveling home to Italy to spend time with family and friends, drinking Hugo Spritzes, and making her nonna's homemade cavatelli.