Sulmona – the home of confetti!
Doesn’t sound like much of a claim to fame does it? Well that’s because confetti in Italy isn’t what it is in the UK other English speaking countries. So let’s be clear shall we?
Italian confetti are small, almond sweets with a crisp, sugar coating. Known in the US as Jordan almonds, and in France as dragées, these traditional confectionery are a much-loved and essential offering at any Italian wedding, baptism, anniversary, graduation or significant family event.
Originally thought to be a Roman delicacy, which was coated in honey, sugar was used from when it first became widely available in the 15th century. The Medieval city of Sulmona in the Abruzzo region quickly became the home and principal centre of production in Italy with the Pelino family commencing their eponymous operation in 1783. Once Sulmona had become the de facto home of confetti production, many other producers set up shop in the city.
Confetti come in a rainbow of colours to suit all tastes and festive colour schemes. An ages-old tradition however dictates which colour should be used for which occasion:
- For weddings: white or ivory
- For baptisms: pastel pink or blue
- For graduations: red
- For anniversaries: coated in silver or gold
Principally confetti are presented in one of three ways:
- Loose in a large dish or bowl
- Custom packaged in an individual presentation pouch or box
- Fashioned into decorative shapes, usually flowers
Another Italian convention suggests that confetti at weddings are served in a multiple of the number 5 symbolising the 5 good wishes for newly-weds of health, prosperity, happiness, fertility and longevity. Even in other situations they are always served in odd numbers as even numbers are deemed to be unlucky.
Today’s confetti are also packaged similarly to other popular, every-day confectionery. They are available in small bags and boxes and are also intended as token gifts for any occasion or simply enjoyed as a sweet treat.
The Pelino confetti are still hand-made with traditional equipment according to a recipe and process dating back over 300 years. The individual almonds are coated with a coloured sugar solution and tumbled over and over in special, heated, copper drums until the process is complete. These confetti are also uniquely distinguished by their formula which traditionally uses neither flour nor other forms of starch.
Note that the English word confetti, meaning tiny scraps of multi-coloured paper used in anglo saxon countries at weddings, has its origins in the Italian tradition. The coloured confetti sweets were at one time thrown during the Italian Carnival celebrations. This convention was revived in symbolic paper form at the end of the 19th century when the throwing of rice at a newly-married couple fell out of favour.
The root of the Italian word confetti comes from the Latin confectum which means ‘prepared’. The Italian word for the English paper confetti is coriandoli which is still an essential part of the annual Carnevale celebrations all over Italy.
Confetti are probably the quintessential Sulmona souvenir and those made by all of the local companies are available to buy in many shops both in Sulmona and indeed throughout Abruzzo.
Reproduced with kind permission of Confetti Pelino srl., Sulmona (AQ)