On November 11th the new wine is celebrated all over Italy with different local traditions
San Martino – Saint Martin of Tours – was a soldier of the Roman Empire who became a Saint for his great humility and generosity; he is best known for the account of his using his military sword to cut his cloak in two, to give half to a beggar clad only in rags in the depth of winter, while he was riding at the gates of the city of Amiens with his soldiers. It is also said that at the moment he shared his cloak, the sun came out and that is why the short period of time in the first half of November characterized by relatively good, warm weather is called ‘Estate di San Martino’ – Saint Martin’s summer.
The saint is celebrated on November 11th and it coincides with the time of the year when the ‘novello’ – the new wine made with the grapes harvested during the same year – is ready to be enjoyed, in fact the old Italian saying goes: “A San Martino ogni mosto diventa vino” – on Saint Martin’s day, every must turns into wine”. On this occasion festivals and celebrations are organized throughout Italy, with people preparing all sorts of regional typical sweets and cakes to accompany the new wine.
In Venice, children go around town making noise with pots and lids asking for money and candies, and singing a popular rhyme in Venetian dialect. The money collected is used to buy a Saint Martin’s cake: a wonderful short pastry cake, decorated with colorful icing, sweets and chocolate chips, shaped like Saint Martin on horseback.
In Palermo, the typical Saint Martin biscuits – fragrant bun shaped cakes with aniseed or wild fennel – are enjoyed soaked and newlyweds couples are gifted with adorned baskets with decorated tablecloths containing Saint Martin biscuits, dried fruits, chestnuts and the ‘pitta’, a circular bread symbolizing the values of the family.
Ilona Catani Scarlett