I Befanini Posted by on Jan 5, 2010 in Culture

Once upon a time in Italy children used to receive their Christmas presents on the Epifania (Epiphany – the 6th of January), instead of on Christmas day. On the eve of Epifania children would hang a stocking near their bed or next to the fireplace, where the mythical kindly old peasant woman known as la Befana would fill them with biscuits, oranges, dried fruit and a present. You can read more about this tradition in my blog from last year

In a little recipe book entitled Torte e ciambelle dolci e frittelle by Elda Carlotti, a collection of traditional cake recipes from the area around Lucca, I found this nice recipe for Befanini, written in the form of a rhyme. Befanini are the traditional biscuits, shaped like angels, stars, and ‘befane’, which are put in the children’s stockings for Epifania.


Buona sera brava gente

Vi ho portato i Befanini

La ricetta abbiate in mente

Per rifarla ai bamborini*.


Dentro un chilo di farina

Burro e zucchero ci vuole (350 gr),

Poi due uova di gallina

E un arancio un* ci sta male.


Di limon una grattatina

Gli dà aroma e molto gusto,

Poi due lieviti in bustina …

Ecco pronto il vostro impasto.


Con formine e mattarello

Date vita ai Befanini

E per far tutto più bello,

Ci van messi anche i chicchini.


È ricetta molto antica

Della nostra Lucchesia

Non vi costano fatica

Se  li fate in allegria.



Good evening gentle folk / I’ve brought you the Befanini / memorize the recipe / so that you can make it for your children.

In a kilo of flour / you need butter and sugar (350 gr), / then two hens’ eggs / and an orange wouldn’t be a bad idea.

A few gratings of lemon / gives it aroma and a lot of flavor, / then two sachets** of baking powder … / that’s your mixture ready.

With pastry cutters and rolling pin / bring the Befanini to life / and to make them more beautiful, / you should also add  hundreds and thousands (the little multicolored sugary grains used to decorate cakes and cookies).

It’s a very old recipe / from our Lucca region / they are no trouble to make / if you do it with cheerfulness.

** Here in Italy baking powder is sold in individual sachets of 16 grams each.

* Bamborini is Tuscan dialect for bambini (children); un is Tuscan for non (not).


Buona Befana a tutti!

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  1. William Auge:

    Salve Serena, ho letto ogni il suo blog dello scorso anno per quanto riguardo alla storia della Befana. E’ interessante come tradizione intrecciarsi. Io non so l’origine della tradizione Americana di sospendendo le calze vicino il focolare. Se il bambino e’ stato cativo, lui ricevera’ il carbone vero. Mai ho sentito di qualcuno ricevendo un pezzo di carbone.
    Manterro’ la ricetta per Befanini usare l’anno prossimo.

    Auguri di Buon Anno, William

  2. Serena:

    Salve William, hai ragione, è molto interessante come le tradizioni si intrecciano! Oggigiorno le feste di Natale e Capodanno sono un amalgama di tante diverse tradizioni, così come Pagana, Cristiana, folkloristico e così via. Neanche io so l’origine della tradizione di appendere la calza vicino al focolare.

    Alla prossima, Serena

  3. Frank:

    Grazie mille, Serena. I’ve been studying more advanced Italian lately, and I just discovered your blogs. You are an amazing writer and teacher. I found you through your blogs about “ci” that you posted last summer and now I want to read everything else.

  4. Serena:

    Salve Frank, grazie per i complimenti, visto che studi italiano avanzato, puoi provare a scrivermi in italiano la prossima volta se te la senti.

    A presto, Serena

  5. Lucia:

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

    Italian bed

  6. Amy:

    Thank you so much for this detail: “** Here in Italy baking powder is sold in individual sachets of 16 grams each.” I am trying to translate some baking recipes, and this fact is not something I cannot find by translation alone.

    • Geoff:

      @Amy Thanks for your comment Amy! 🙂

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