Italian Traditions: Christmas lunch in Genoa

We believe that learning about local traditions is an important part of any trip if you love to travel deeper, under the tourist surface, as we love to do.

That’s why today we want to tell you about Italian traditions focussing on Christmas traditions in Liguria, the Italian Riviera, and particularly on the traditional Christmas lunch in Genoa as it was in the past times and as it still is in many families.

Preparations began on Christmas Eve, when they cleaned the house and decorated it with long strands of string full of laurel, olive branches, walnuts and hazelnuts.

On the table they were placed symbolic elements which had a propitiatory function: a handful of salt, a white bread for the poor and one for the animals, a slotted spoon and a brush made of heather blessed in the midnight Mass.

By the Eve they burned in the fireplace a stump of olive tree or laurel.

It was left to burn slowly until the New Year and was the symbol of the old year that was ending.

The traditional Christmas meal, enlivened by the light of “lumin”, special candles made with mandarins, started with “Natalini” special macaroni in capon broth, enriched with meatballs or sausage nuggets, which were a lucky charm as representing coins.

It is a form of macaroni, longer, cut on the bias at the ends, much like the Neapolitans ziti but slightly wider in diameter and produced using durum wheat flour.

These special macaroni are still produced in Liguria only during the Christmas season and have special processing.

They are golden, smooth, but with slight irregularities and the taste is rather special.

Natalini traditional dish for Christmas in the Italian Riviera
Credits: @asmallkitcheningenoa

Someone also prepared “Ravioli”, topped with “Tuccu”, a traditional sauce made with meat and dried mushrooms, or “butt naked” which means flavored just with cheese.

More often “Ravioli” was prepared on the 26th with leftovers from the day before.

Capon boiled meat, used for the broth, was eaten with mustard or with green sauce, made from different variants.

The second was a magnificent roasted turkey.

With turkey, they used to eat fried vegetables served inside wafers.

Fried Sage in Liguria

Then came the time for dessert, paired with local sweet wines (do you know the famous Sciacchetrà from Cinque Terre?): the famous Pandolce, the delicious fried sweet milk, fruit both dried and candied and “Cobelletti”, local shortbread biscuits.

Note that in Genoa in 1838 operated at least 34 confectioneries that candied fruits but also vegetables, seeds, flowers and today you can still visit one of them, the ancient Romanengo confectionery in Genoa, born in 1780… and it will look like jumping back in the past.

Candied fruits

It was a very rich meal, so that there was the tradition to distribute all the delicious leftovers from Christmas dinner among all the components of the families, who gathered to celebrate Holy Christmas.

This tradition expresses very well the spirit of Christmas in Liguria: a sense of family, thrift, forethought and love.

Thanks to

More Tips and ideas?

Check our trips and experiences lovingly crafted by real locals. We love the territory where we live and have selected for you the best of the best.

Would you like to talk to us?

Contact us and we will be happy to help you to plan the perfect trip for you.