Basel Stories and Tips

The Tale of the Columbi

Columbo di Verona Photo, Biella, Piedmont

When I stayed with my friend Monica near Biella, Italy, I got to sample some great Northern Italian food including the staples of pizza and pastas. But the funniest and most interesting part of this traveler's first time trip to Italy was sampling an Easter treat called the Columbi.

The first time I had the Columbi, it was at Ristorante Ioris on Easter Sunday. After a gazillion courses of great food, I was ready to surrender to the food gods but I remembered my late beloved Nana always saying, "I always leave room for dessert!" Knowing I would need to be taken out of the restaurant in a wheel barrow I anyway put any ideas of diet to death and indulged. The Columbi is an Easter one-layer angel food cake that is flavored with lemon and almond extract. It is topped with sliced almonds and confectioners sugar. You see it in restaurants and in grocery stores throughout Italy at Easter time. I enjoyed the Columbi and didn't have to be carted out of the restaurant in a wheel barrow.

Easter Monday is also a big holiday in Europe, and Monica, her husband Luca, son Alberto, and I were invited to Luca's family for dinner. Luca is from another small village near Biella in Piedmonte, and he grew up near an old church that I took pictures of before going inside his mother's house for dinner. Luca was honored an outsider took pictures of his church, but I love old churches and architecture and take pictures of them all of the time. After feasting on antipasti and ravioli and other goodies, it was time for dessert. Wondering if I was going to need a second seat for my flight to Amsterdam later that week, I once again succumbed to the Columbi that Luca's mother put before us. Oh boy! Once again I enjoyed the Columbi very much, and picked at some almonds that were left on the serving plate. Both Monica, Luca and his family noticed my enjoying the Columbi and commented on it.

The night before I left Italy for The Netherlands, Monica and Luca said they had a little present for me for my birthday that was three days away. It was a big bag and inside was, you guessed it, a Columbi from the local market in a box. I laughed about it and Monica and Luca said it would be something for me to enjoy when I got to the Netherlands for my birthday. Now the fun part was lugging that on the plane without damage or confiscation from security like they do here in the airports.

After a train ride from Biella to Novarra and a bus to the airport in Milano in my suitcase, I get to the check-in desk at Milano Malpensa and the girls at the desk opened my bag to make sure I had nothing illegal in there. They got a good giggle after seeing my Columbi, and I told them my birthday was in two days and it was for me to celebrate the day Italian style.

The Columbi made it to the Netherlands in one piece but it was flattened. I offered some of it to my friends for my contribution for dessert, but my friend Monique, who is diabetic, told me to save it. I shared half of it in Germany before sealing it up in a bag for the trip home to America where the remaining pancake of Columbi was consumed by Mom and me and probably the six dogs.

So that is the tale of the Traveling Columbi for you.

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