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Coppa dell'Amicizia

The Feast of Saint Orso

St Orso Festival LogoThe Feast of St. Orso in medieval Valle d'Aosta has been warming hearts and stomachs since it began around the year 1000.

To 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.

From 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 feast.

Local 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.

The 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."

An 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.

Do you want to make a traditional "coppa dell'amicizia"? Here's my grollarecipe adapted from many I've tried.

If 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.

  • 4 cups espresso coffee
  • 3 glasses of grappa
  • 1 glass of genepy (a liqueur made in Valle D’Aosta)
  • or 1 glass dry red wine (if you can't find Genepy)
  • sugar to taste
  • 1 orange (some prefer lemons)

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".

Pour 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 necessary precautions.

More on the Feast of St. Orso

St Orso Fair LogoThis Aosta Valley site has music, pictures and more. Worth a visit even if you don't read Italian.
Fiera Di'Sant'Orso [Italian only]


Aosta valleyCheese, wine, famed mountain guides and a winter paradise are also features of the Aosta valley.
The Aosta Valley [In English & Italian]


Church Of Sant'OrsoA brief description of the Fair but a great shot of the church with the Alps in the background.
Outdoor Markets in Valle d'Aosta [English only]



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