Celebrating Halloween in Milano?

Historically, Italy has been a prevalently Catholic country. So it should come as no surprise that all the big Vatican holidays on the calendar are also national holidays in the bel paese, giving students and workers a break from their everyday routine. On some campuses, these holidays also coincide with exams, and at Bocconi partial exams are scheduled around the time of All Saints’ Day, November 1.

Black gloves with painted bones

In recent years, the Anglo-Saxon tradition of Halloween has crept into popular culture around Milano, especially among the younger generations. Kids might dress up as witches and vampires, enjoying another opportunity to wear a fun costume. Same goes for the twenty-something crowd, because there are lots of parties at clubs around town where you can dress up and dance the night away. Just do an internet search for Halloween parties in Milano and you’ll be spoiled for choice.

But before heading out to that special party on the 31st, you’ll need a costume! It’s too late to take advantage of the many online resources available (shipping takes at least a few days). And if you’re not into DIY, or you left your handy sewing machine back home, your only option are those old-fashioned brick-and-mortar shops. Luckily for you, Milano has several options:

  • Most of the larger supermarkets have a small selection of the usual costume supplies like hats, make-up kits and some low-quality outfits. Some might be more geared towards the kids, but it’s usually worth a browse while picking up some groceries.
  • There are lots of variety stores or discount stores scattered around the city that often carry holiday supplies. Cartolerie (office and school supply stores) also might have children-oriented goods.
Window with Halloween decorationsIf you want the more variety and maybe higher quality, there are also quite a few stores specializing in costumes in various parts of Milano. Here are just a few:
  • Mondo in Festa, Via Col di Lana 7. This is the closest holiday supply store to the Bocconi campus. It’s fairly small but should have a few options, including face paints, costumes and other supplies if you’re hosting a Halloween party.
  • Carneval Planet, Piazzale Cantore 5. Very close to the Darsena and the Navigli, this is a larger shop with a wide variety of costumes. It’s also pretty close to campus.
  • La Bottega del Carnevale, Via Mercato 5. This store has been specializing in costumes for decades. It’s huge and located near the Lanza station, near Brera. Worth a visit any time of year!
  • Party World, Via Alessandro Volta 16. Near the Moscova subway stop, this place has a good supply of costumes and supplies.
  • Publimagic, Via Paolo Lomazzo 25. You can rent costumes here if you’d rather not buy your costume. Just make sure you’re not too late to get the one you want! Located near Corso Sempione.
  • Party Magic, Via San Gregorio, 6. Located near the Lima subway stop (red line), here’s another option for your fancy dress needs.

The above links are generally in Italian, so for more info, either get an Italian-speaking friend to help you out or go directly to the store to see for yourself. And of course, be safe, dress to the nines, have fun and…

Happy Halloween!

A Sweet Fall Tradition in Milano

Desserts in a shop window

Desserts in a shop windowWalking around the city around the end of October (close to Halloween), you might see some little chocolaty long and narrow cakes in bakery windows. And you just might ask yourself what this dessert is all about, after just maybe giving in to temptation by buying a few to snack on. So here’s a little background about the delicious Milanese treat, pan dei morti.

Like many of the culinary traditions in Italy, these desserts are made and eaten for a holiday connected to the Roman Catholic calendar. All Soul’s Day (also known as the Day of the Dead and il Giorno dei morti in Italian) is celebrated each year on 2 November. Eating and making pan dei morti is connected to the traditions of the holiday, which is celebrated to commemorate the spirits of the dead as they enter heaven. One of the practices of celebrating is to use the day off from work or school (which is actually All Saint’s Day on 1 November) to go to the cemetery and leave flowers on the graves of family members. In addition, there are traditional sweets all over Italy (either homemade or found in local pasticcerie) that were traditionally left out on the night of 1 November as an offering to the dead or as a symbol of the gifts the souls bring to the living.

A lot of these traditions (including the ingredients used in today’s sweets) date back to before the arrival of Christianity, and may be based in Judaism, Roman, Greek and other peoples of the area. The desserts vary from region to region and include fave da morto, ossa di morto, dita di apostolo and pupi di zucchero. A lot of the times they’re in the shape of bones or fingers reminiscent of the spirits they honor. Here in Milano, pan dei morti, made of chocolate, spices, pine nuts, almonds, ground-up cookies and powdered sugar (and sometimes candied oranges, raisins and hazelnuts) has been around in the area for quite some time and today it can even be found in parts of Tuscany.

A little-known fact about the Italian tradition this time of year is that in some regions, children used to go door to door, singing or requesting sweets or treats in the name of the dead. Doesn’t that sounds a little like the Anglo-Saxon tradition of Halloween?

So why not head to your local pasticceria and try this traditional Milanese dessert? Yum!