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The kitchen

What we eat is linked to what we produce and to trade. In the previous centuries the typical cuisine of an area reflected the possibilities of the social productive system of its own places and of the neighboring areas. In the Middle Ages, with the considerable political division of Italy, very different uses and gastronomic traditions gradually developed. From here they were born  the first regional cuisines.


The relationship between history and cuisine is close, it is a path where even political history could have influenced but sometimes this correlation does not stand up to historical evidence. Why do we have  traditional unsalted bread?   Many of us from Umberto I, together with  those of the Province of Perugia would reply that it was because of the papal taxation on salt and the protests that also led to the "salt war" between Perugia and the papal power.  But Zachary Novak, in his " The unsalted bread and the Perugia salt war " reminds us that the geographical area that uses the "unsalted bread" is wider and covers not only the north of Lazio but also Umbria and the Marches.  Tuscany, where there was certainly no papal taxation. In his study Nowak also excludes that the cause could be connected to the distance from the sea and to the salt flats because in the case the "unsalted bread" had to extend throughout the Italian Apennine belt.


For Nowak, the question remains at the end  without solution even after analysis  of historical written sources coeval with the "salt war". Instead, it assumes that the identification "salt war" / "bread  sciapo "is a construction of the Risorgimento before the passage from the State of the Church to the Kingdom of Italy as an anti-papal legend




From the Statutes ...

And so to understand our cuisine and its relationship with history we will start from our written sources, that is  " Statutes of Fratta of 1535 "  to then point out Bottacioli's worthy work published as "Umbertide's Calendar" in 2012  which has saved a whole world of flavors and colors that risked being forgotten from the 60s and 70s. However, we are aware that even this aspect of Umbertide's "history" should be expanded with archival studies but also with video recordings of the "recipes" of the last century.


Fratta, a small town on the Tiber river located between land and water, or the Tiber and its alluvial plain, developed its gastronomy on these aspects. The doves "reared" in the walls of the houses, the fish of the Tiber, the honey of bees, the breeding of "farmyard animals" such as chickens, pigs and sheep and goats from sheep and goats, wheat and wine from agriculture these are the main products of Umbertide cuisine since 1500, in fact in the "Statutes of Fratta of 1535" we read:


Doves :

... " DELI PIGLANTI THE DOMESTIC COLOMBS o  DE COLOMBAJO "...  "the domestic doves of the piglianti " ...

"...  X de dinars worth of money for everyone who steals  in any way, palomba de palomboro or domesticho or casalengho ".

Pisces :

"... Statuimo adonqua et we order that in the river of the Tiber in that part where it is pesscha and that for the common one if it concerns: it is lawful for no person to pesschare or pesschare ...".

Chickens, sheep, pork ...

"... Statuimo et we order that no person as foreign as terrazana ardisscha or true presume me either in el di del merchato either for himself or through an intermediary person to bring or to have brought: neither to bring nor to have quantities of chickens compared to sell to chicken coops . .. ".

"... The Berbece sheep meat must be mixed with it. O goat: o beak between the gelding: ne carne de scropha or real cionchola between that of the male pig ... ".


"... Statuimo et we order that by swarming the bees of others and placing themselves on some tree of the possession and property of others being followed by the patron whose sleep dicte ape in anci the intra of the posession must be the one who follows them first adimandia licentia to the patron to enter us in epssa et corre dicte soi ape ... ".

Wheat and miller

"... We also order and provide that the furnishing of the said castle and so the villages be kept and that they must cook the bread and provide them well and legally ... ".

"... S tattoo and we order that each miller of any mill of the said castle be kept havere and hold the cups and measures adjusted and stamped with the bill of the municipality ... ".

Grapes and wine

"... And this has no place in the Moscatello grapes which if they can harvest according to the patron's approval: at omni tempo ... ".

But for those who really want to "savor"  Umbertide cuisine with our " cappelletti ", " brustenghi ", potatoes  under the ashes and many tales of men and uses on food until the recent past ...  we encourage reading the supplement of  Umbertide Chronicles n. 2/2012 with the works of Adriano Bottaccioli, with the collaboration of Fabio Mariotti, Amedeo Massetti, Walter Rondoni:

And again by the same authors you can deepen the work of two years earlier, namely 2011, focused on the Tiber with a research and description of the cuisines linked to the river: the "barzo",  the "eel", the "frogs, the" roaches "etc ... at this address:

Dagli Statuti...

The Easter Cake

La Torta di Pasqua

The Umbertidese cuisine uses the "Easter cakes", cooked throughout Umbria although they are known with some linguistic variations. The Cake is a food / cultural element connected to the Easter rituals, which celebrate the death and rebirth of Christ.

On Easter morning the cake was accompanied by capocollo, salami, hard-boiled eggs, wine and vinsanto.

They were baked in the ovens of farmhouses or in city bakers that allowed the preparation of family cakes, marked with a "brand" or thanks to characteristic "customized" containers to be recognized; the cooking was also accompanied by ritual signs, of the cross or phrases such as “Dio t'accresca” (referred to by Rita Boini).

Today we have switched to industrial preparation or in a safer way from a food safety point of view, but many families continue to make them at home on their own oven.

The type of preparation that was once more varied, in less than a century has seen a homogenization of the ingredients that followed the cultural homogenization between geographical areas and countryside compared to the cities. Salty or sweet, with spicier cheeses or gruyere, this food still identifies Umbria. as far as we are concerned, according to Rita Boni, "The cheese cake invaded the city districts at the hands of the inhabitants of the Umbertidese countryside inhabited between the fifties and sixties of the last century."

This simple food brings with it two thousand years of religious identification linked to Christianity, but it must be remembered that Easter rituals fall in the spring period and re-propose some aspects of an archaic pre-Christian religiosity that is rich in propitiatory symbologies connected to the death-rebirth of the earth. . This is because popular culture "readjusts old clothes", adapts them whether they are rituals, stories, songs or culinary traditions.

Following Rita Boini we can trace the antecedents "cheese cakes" between the ancient Umbrians and the ancient Romans.

In the Eugubine tables of the III-II century BC, present in the Civic Museum of Gubbio, the “mefa spefa”, a 'seasoned crescia' is mentioned. Boini says that the "mefa spefa ... is surprisingly close to our Easter cake: flour, eggs, milk, cheese", as well as being leavened.

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But also the Savillum, it seems  somehow its antecedent: a cheesecake (sweet) described in Cato's “De Agri Cultura” (2nd century BC) and which has similar ingredients. 

Here we provide you a link with the description and preparation of this "cheese cake" from ancient Rome made with  100 grams of white wheat flour, 500 grams of fresh cheese, 50 grams of honey, 1 egg, white poppy seeds:

For those who want to see the reconstruction of the preparation of this ancient cake (English language) here is the video:

Adriano Bottaccioli, author of numerous researches on our traditions also on the culinary ones, tells us  that " an anticipation of the current Easter cakes could be that" Pancasciato "which had among the ingredients, in addition to cheese and saffron, also pieces of lard. This is confirmed by the fact that already in the seventeenth century  Confraternities of Fratta and among these that of Santa Croce, offered it to their associates on the occasion of Easter, together with the Ciaramicole. Information taken from the volume "Umbertide nel sec. XVII" by Renato Codovini and Roberto Sciurpa and reported by me on the 2013 Umbertide Calendar. It should be added that "Pan Caciato" is still considered a typical product of some Umbrian cities, although with different names and preparations (in Todi it becomes "Pan nociato"), in our part of Italy the tradition is now lost. ".


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- Image from the 2013 Umbertide Calendar (quoted in "Sources").

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