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Sulmona – the Home of Confetti

The city of Sulmona is located in the Province of L’Aquila in Abruzzo. Situated in the Valle Peligna, a plateau once occupied by a prehistoric lake, in 1706 the city was nearly razed by an earthquake. Palazzo Annunziata is one of the rare examples of late medieval/early Renaissance architecture that survived the catastrophic event. Its facade contains fine sculpture and tracery work. Inside the Palazzo is a museum showcasing the Roman history of the city as well as various artifacts.

While much of the medieval city was destroyed, other remarkable buildings that survived include the Church of Santa Maria della Tomba, the Aqueduct and the Gothic portal on Corso Ovidio. Much of the city was then rebuilt in the prevailing elegant Baroque style of the 18th century, as is the case for Piazza Garibaldi, the city’s largest piazza, known for its immense Baroque fountain. Sulmona’s Duomo, located on the northwest side of the old city, was built on the site of a Roman temple. It contains a crypt which retains its Romanesque appearance, despite the 18th century renovation of the main church, following the earthquake.

Piazza XX Settembre, one of the main piazzas in the city, features a bronze statue of the Roman poet Ovid, who was born in the city and is the namesake to Corso Ovidio, the city’s main thoroughfare. It connects the cathedral with the city’s major piazzas and is lined by elegant covered arcades, shops, cafes, palaces and churches.

Sulmona is the home of the Italian confectionery known as confetti. This almond treat with a hard sugar coating is traditionally given to friends and family during important occasions such as weddings (white confetti), birth (blue or pink), baptisms and graduations. Although they are often eaten, they are popularly used as decorations. In Sulmona, the local shops are extremely creative and artistic, with spectacular arrangements and colors.

At weddings, it is particularly important for family and friends to throw white confetti to the newlyweds. Five almonds are used to signify five wishes for the bride and groom – health, wealth, happiness, fertility and longevity. These almonds decorate each place setting as favors, tucked into pretty boxes or tulle bags called bomboniere that are often personalized with the couple’s names and wedding date.

The simple, sweet, confetti may seem a small item, but in Italy it is a billion dollar industry. A leader in the field is the Mario Pelino Company, whose history with the sweets dates back to 1783. The generic name confetti has nothing to do with the English word for bits of colored paper. For the origin of confetti, it is necessary to look back to the ancient Romans who celebrated births and marriages with the distant ancestors of today’s confetti. Until the Renaissance, they were made with honey. The introduction of sugarcane into European kitchens in the 15th century marked the beginning of the modern era for confetti.

The earliest testimonies of the high status and near-ritual use of confetti come from the Renaissance. In 1487, more than 260 pounds of confetti were consumed at the banquet for the wedding of Lucrezia Borgia and Alfonso D’Este, the son of Ercole I, Duke of Ferrara. The use of confetti really began to spread through Italy during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, when the first modern confetti factories appeared.

Confetti are made through a four-day-long process that will never be completely industrialized. First, the centers of the almonds are injected with sugar. After having been peeled in a special machine, the almonds are placed in large rotating basins. Liquefied sugar is poured in gradually in order to lightly coat the almonds. At the end of the day, the almonds must rest until the next morning when operations resume. The final coating is applied and then the confetti must fully dry before packaging. A significant amount of confetti is exported to the United States and has become fashionable to use at many occasions.

Pastry chef and entrepreneur Giancarlo Palazzone and his wife, Veronica Tessicini, are owners of Palazzone 1960 in Wayne, New Jersey. Giancarlo Palazzone’s parents immigrated to the United States from in the early 1960s and opened a bakery in Clifton, New Jersey. After twelve years in America, the Palazzone family returned to Italy. In 1990, the family moved to Giancarlo’s father’s hometown of Sulmona and established the Pasticceria Palazzone, which quickly became well-known for its quality baking. Within a few years it established itself as the one of largest and best family bakeries in the region. In 2010, Giancarlo decided to take on a new business endeavor and brought his wealth of experience back to the United States and launched Palazzone1960. His shop features his family’s confetti from Sulmona, exported to him and beautifully wrapped.

Palazzone 1960 Italian pasticceria, with some of the finest and most authentic pastries, cakes and sweets outside of Italy, strikes the perfect balance between traditional and contemporary. Palazzone 1960 also imports the family’s Panettone from its factory in Sulmona. During the holidays, it has now become a tradition for many in the area to buy the season’s Panettone only from Palazzone 1960, which is located at 190 Route 23 in Wayne. For more information call 973-256-2735 or visit www.palazzone1960.com.