Have you ever seen our video: ‘How Lavolio Sweets Are Made’ ? It opens the doors into the five-day process we use to make our sugar-coated Lavolios. This antique Italian technique, using furnaced copper barrels to carefully coat each sweet with different flavours, has been around for many, many centuries, so I thought it would be wonderful to travel back in time with you and tell you all about the origins of the true Italian confectionery or, as the Italians call it, “confetti”.
So when did Italian confectionery first come about? Well, some say that confectionery goes back to the time of the Romans. We know this because there are mentions in scripts dating back to 447 A.D of confectionery being used for important ceremonies, such as the weddings of the rich Roman family “Fabi”. However, others disagree and refer even further back to the 1200’s, when the Persians and Arabs used sugared sweets for therapeutic reasons, in order to mix into their medicines to help cure illnesses.
Nevertheless, the actual custom of throwing confetti during a celebration, dates back to the Roman period. This is where ‘confetti’ gets its English meaning in connection with tossing little bits in the air in celebratory occasions.
Originally, confectionery was prepared using pine nuts and walnuts, which were then covered in honey to give it a sweet coating. It wasn’t long before confectionery began to advance and raw materials were imported from the Mediterranean and the Middle East: spices, almonds, pistachios, citrus fruits, rosewater and later, from the New World, chocolate, to create new, more exotic flavours.
It wasn’t until the 15th century that honey which coated confetti was replaced by sugarcane, and sugar coated almonds were to be found at every prestigious gathering due to its high value status. It was a common procedure to offer these confections to the most important guests after the meal, as a way of sealing partnerships, pacts or political agreements. In the territories of central Italy, also known as the Papal States, from the 700s up until 1870 sugared almonds were gifted to stage actors before entering on stage. Well respected writers such as Boccaccio, Manzoni and Goethe, to name but a few, were among the many admirers of these delicious treats. Italian poet, Giacomo Leopardi, was very fond of cannellini, a traditional Italian coated cinnamon candy stick.
Even Napoleon was a lover of these “bon-bons”, so much so that in 1806 he wanted to make his entrance into Verdun passing under l’Arche de Triomphe built entirely of white sugared almonds. Sulmona, in the province of L’Aquila, is known as the “city of confetti”. In 1400 it started the production of these delicious treats using the modern sugarcane method. Today Sulmona is home to the ‘Pelino Confetti Museum’, founded by the Pelino family in 1988 to celebrate the success of its ancient confectioners who put Sulmona’s name on the map with their tremendous skill.