Submitted by Charlene Pardo
March in Italy can be rainy and cold in the northern regions of Italy, but there are still many interesting things to do. It’s a great time to go skiing in the Italian Alps and visit the majestic Dolomite mountains. Lake Garda is also a popular mountain destination in March for hiking, biking, and sailing before the summer rates go into effect after Easter. If you’re looking for warmer weather, head for Sicily and visit Palermo, Messina, or Taormina, which get impossibly crowded in summer, but are very pleasant in March.
If you’re superstitious or if you had to read the play “Julius Caesar” in high school, beware of the Ides of March! These were the fateful words of the soothsayer to the Roman emperor. On March 15, 44 BC, the so-called “friends” of Julius Caesar stabbed him to death to gain control of the Senate. Rome still commemorates the day with an historical reenactment of the deed, a marathon near the site, and visits to Caesar’s grave at the Roman Forum. People still leave flowers at the gravesite!
No matter where you go in Italy, the 19th of March will be a a grand celebration. It’s the Feast of St Joseph and Italian Father’s Day. St Joseph became very popular in the Middle Ages during a severe drought in Sicily. Starving families prayed to St Joseph for rain and as soon as the rain came down, the farmers went to work planting crops like fava beans. That’s why St Joseph’s tables always include fava beans, a drought tolerant, high-yield crop that became a staple Italian food during tough economic times.
In addition to fish, pasta, and fava bean dishes, there are breads, pastries, candles, and flowers on the home altar to celebrate with family and friends and anyone who might need a meal. Traditionally, no meat was allowed at the table because St Joseph’s Day is in Lent, but Italians consoled themselves with a big meatless feast topped off with a cream-filled puff pastry called “zeppole”.
Enjoy your March celebrations with family and friends and share our rich Italian traditions with everyone you know.