Podcast Episode 3: La Befana

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Show notes

In this episode, I talk about the Italian festival of la Befana which falls on January 6 each year. I explain what the festival is about and trace its origins, which go back almost three thousand years. I then go on to explain the importance of the festival today, how it’s celebrated in various parts of Italy and, of course, the delicious food associated with it.

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The episode includes:

  • Who la Befana is and what happens during the festival
  • The ancient Roman origins of the festival
  • The meaning and function of the festival in the pagan past
  • Why the festival is celebrated on January 6
  • How Christianity embraced and assimilated the festival
  • How the festival developed into its current form
  • How the festival is celebrated in different parts of Italy
  • What la regatta della Befana is
  • La fugassa d’la Befana
  • Cavallucci di Siena
  • Pastiera Napoletana


Variations of the words to La Befana vien di notte (in Italian).

A modern version of the song by the Italian singer, Gianni Morandi.

The recipe for Cavallucci di Siena.

The recipe for Panforte di Siena.

The Befana market in Piazza Navona, in Rome.

La regata della Befana 2020 in Venice.

Images of la Befana at Castroni grocers in Rome.

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4 thoughts on “Podcast Episode 3: La Befana”

  1. Another entertaining and informative piece of Italian culture. This , I think ,is the best one so far! The history of La Befana, that peculiarly Italian festive tradition is fascinating, stretching back to pagan times and enchanting with the story of the lady making amends for missing out on a visit to the Christ child. I was surprised to learn it still features in modern Italian Christmas celebrations and La Befana still visits children with sweets (or coal) on the feast of the Epiphany . Great stuff!

  2. Very interesting, even for an Italian 🙂 In Varese we have special puff cakes in the shape of a camel. “Varesotti” think that it’s a Lombardy tradition, so, when they go to Milan and ask “two small camels please”, try to imagine the face of the cake shop seller. Thank you, I will certainly follow your podcasts.

    1. Ah yes, I’ve heard of these. They look wonderful. I will have to time a trip to Varese next New Year to try them.

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