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Our virtual orientation tour of central Rome has been…
The celebrations for the end of the year are upon us! However, before we get to that part of December where Christmas decorations are ubiquitous and traditional cakes are everywhere you look, tempting you into gaining a pound (or three), you’ve still got the chance to taste something that is as quintessentially Italian, Roman even, as delicious and completely unrelated to the festivities!
We’re talking about the maritozzo: a bigger-than-average pastry which history is as long as the city of Rome, and which comes complete with its dedicated day.
Shaped like a loaf of bread, this particular pastry has a very simple recipe: flour, eggs, butter, honey, yeast and a pinch of salt.
Two main versions exist, both eaten in the mornings as breakfast, and always at a café (home ovens can’t do the trick!).
In its simplest form, the bun is cut vertically and stuffed with whipped, fresh cream. Traditionally, it is something Romans eat when they’re after a treat, sometimes right before going to bed after a night out. You might encounter versions with chocolate cream in it, but they’re rarer.
The second version, slightly smaller in size, dates back to the Middle Ages and it was the only type of “cake” allowed by the Pope during Lent: the basic version is kneaded with raisins, pine nuts and sometimes candied fruit. Just a handful of cafes in the city have it always available – among them, Regoli, which is just a few minutes away from our managed accommodation on Via Mecenate.
The first maritozzi were made by women in ancient Rome whose husbands left early in the mornings to go to work – no whipped cream there, but big enough to provide sustenance for the whole of the day!
In a long-lost tradition, young men used to gift their sweethearts a wedding ring baked into a maritozzo to ask for their hand. In another version, women of marrying age had to taste maritozzi baked by the best bachelors in town, and they would have ended marrying the man who had prepared the best-tasting one.
The pastry, as a matter of fact, shares the root of its name with the word marito (“husband”).
Far from being something you can eat every day (oh, how we would love to, though!), maritozzo is, again, something you treat yourself to for a special occasion, or to top off a memorable night.
Food allergies and different lifestyles have made it so that it is now a more common occurrence to happen upon a vegan maritozzo, or a gluten-free maritozzo.
And today, maritozzi are not exclusively sweet cakes, either! There are places offering savoury maritozzi, paired with signature fillings, be it from the Roman tradition or completely created by chefs eager to bring a staple into the 21st century. Case in point: Maritozzo Rosso, in Trastevere, is a small eatery completely devoted to this pastry. You can walk to it from several of our rental apartments in the same area!
Which brings us to… Maritozzo Day. Every year, the first days of December are marked by an event where restaurant owners and pastry chefs alike come together to celebrate this Roman delicacy: they mix traditional recipes and new takes on a classic and sell them at a special price to customers – as simple as that.
A straightforward formula, if you will, that spread to more cities of Italy (like Milan, or Turin!) – maritozzi are much loved even outside Rome.
This year Maritozzo Day will take place on December 7.
This page on the day’s official website (Italian only) lists all participating business in or around Rome, sorted by time of day (in the afternoons the offer will be focused on savory maritozzi). We recommend checking out the official map there (“Mappa”) to find which store is closest t your accommodation, and then picking at the very least a sweet maritozzo and a savory one. You know, for research purposes!