Feast of Saint Orso
of St. Orso in medieval Valle
d'Aosta has been warming hearts and stomachs since it
began around the year 1000.
beat the onset of cabin fever at the end of January, the
local residents gathered together for six days of feasting
and music. The traditional "cup of friendship,"
a very potent espresso/alcohol mixture, would be passed,
steaming hot, to cut through the frigid temperatures in
the mountain valley.
early records, the festival started out as a community drive
to provide food and tools to the poorest in the valley.
Saint Orso, a hermit and mountain craftsman started this
tradition by distributing his work to the poor in the valley.
The medieval Hospital of St. Orso became the center of the
craftsmen would bring samples of their work to sell and
distribute to those who could not afford to buy. Whether
the giving was prompted by drinking several cups of the
traditional Acosta Valley coffee or if it would have happened
without the aid of alcohol is a question shrouded in the
mists of time.
crafts exhibited, and for sale, at the modern fair include
wood sculpture and carving, creation of objects in local
"ollare" stone, wrought iron, "drap" cloth, wool weaving
on ancient wooden looms, as well as lace, wicker, household
objects, wooden ladders, barrels and crafts of all kinds.
The fair is a good place to find the traditional grolla
and the taller "cup of friendship."
old legend says that the Holy Grail is concealed among the
high mountains of Valle D'Aosta and that the Grolla is an
exact copy of it. Anyone who is given a cup of friendship
in this winter paradise will feel the need to return. Anyone
who has visited
the feast, will tell you that the second part of this legend
is very true.
you want to make a traditional
"coppa dell'amicizia"? Here's my recipe
adapted from many I've tried.
you don't have a grolla, you can use regular coffee cups.
Traditionally the cup is shared among friends, but most
of my friends prefer to have their own cup.
It is traditional to prepare and drink a "coppa dell'amicizia"
in a grolla, a carved wooden bowl made by the artisans
of Valle D’Aosta. There is also a taller version called
a friendship cup - "coppa dell'amicizia".
all of the ingredients into the grolla. Mix to dissolve
the sugar and serve right away. The orange is used to flavor
the drink and as a garnish on the cups. If you want to be
authentic, light the liquid and serve it flaming. It's very
impressive that way and also cuts down on the alcohol content.
The longer the flame is left, the more alcohol is burned
off. Of course, if you decide to play with fire - use the
on the Feast of St. Orso
Aosta Valley site has music, pictures and more. Worth a
visit even if you don't read Italian.
Di'Sant'Orso [Italian only]
wine, famed mountain guides and a winter paradise are also
features of the Aosta valley.
Aosta Valley [In English & Italian]
brief description of the Fair but a great shot of the church
with the Alps in the background.
Markets in Valle d'Aosta [English only]