One month has passed since the end of Carnevale celebrations and the 40-day period of Lenten fasting is well underway. Lent ends with the celebration of Easter and the awakening of springtime. Easter Sunday is almost here and traditional pastries and chocolates appear in shop windows everywhere, tempting passersby. colomba3Neapolitans traditionally bake pastiera – a ricotta and wheat berry cake flavored with orange blossom water and lemon rind – while Sicilians shape marzipan lambs and make cassata – layers of sponge cake and sweetened ricotta cheese flavored with chocolate shavings. The assembled cassata is surrounded with a thin layer of almond paste and a layer of sugar icing. Colossal chocolate Easter eggs containing a trinket surprise are found in supermarkets, coffee bars and candy shops from the Alps to the islands. colomba1But Italy’s best known Easter dessert is the colomba. The dove-shaped sweet bread (colomba is the Italian for dove) originated in the northern region of Lombardy and it is yet another symbol of springtime. Panettone-like, it is enriched with butter, eggs and sugar. The best colomba are soft and light despite the yeasty dough mixture. The classic version (pictured above) is decorated with a crunchy white sugar and almond coating. Other versions add chocolate, pears, and strawberries. colomba5Today, most colomba is mass produced. Luckily, in Rome there are a number of artisanal producers and gourmet shops where you can buy individual, 1 kilo and 5 kilo versions of this tasty seasonal treat for your Easter day celebration. Some of our favorites places in Rome for colomba and other Easter treats are La TradizionePasticceria Regoli, Antico Forno Roscioli, Panificio Bonci, and Pasticceria Cinque Lune