An Italian city living between art and food
We are going to present a beautiful city with its cake, famous in all the world. So, if you love history, art and sweets, save your time to read the following lines.
Not far from Venice, rises Treviso, a small city but very particular for its architectural styles: from the Neoclassical of the Cathedral to the baroque of the villas. Around the year 1000 Treviso was known as the “picta” (painted city), thanks to many and beautiful frescoes decorating the facades of its palaces, frescoes and that can still be admired today.
The city was born as a village built in pre-Roman times on three hills near the river Sile, in an area between the lagoon and the hills not far from the mountains, therefore very rich in water and vineyards. Named Tarvisium, it became a lively commercial center, thanks to its strategic position, and the mercantile trade that took place thanks to the canals. Until the fall of the Western Roman Empire and during the reign of Theodoric, Treviso was an important centre and was disputed by Ostrogoths and Byzantines. Later it was conquered by the Lombards, and in Treviso was built a mint that worked for centuries, until the Venetian domination.
The ancient Treviso: struggles, beautiful life and commerce
Treviso gained much power in the age of the communes, when it allied with the Veronese and Lombarda leagues by defeating Emperor Frederick Barbarossa. Its possessions grew larger and the wealth favored the development of artistic patronage, as well as style and worldliness. In the 13th century it was the seat of the University (1321), such as it happened in Padua and Verona. The power was in the hands of an oligarchy made of noble families fighting against each other, which were divided into Guelphs and Ghibellines as it happend in the entire Italian peninsula. Treviso was involved in wars between lordships until 1339, when it surrendered to the powerful Venice, that assured it peace and prosperity for the following centuries. In 1797 Venice was defeated by Napoleon and after decades under the Austrian Empire, in 1866 Treviso was conquered by the nascent Kingdom of Italy.
In all these centuries Treviso was always recognized as a model in having good life, strong in arts and architecture, with great culinary traditions and prestigious wine productions. Still today they are renowned in the world (such as Prosecco wine), and maybe we will talk about it in another article. Before moving on to the dessert we have chosen as the symbol of Treviso, we recommend you to dedicate the right amount of time to visiting the city.
Discovering the city of Treviso
Treviso is a city to visit in every season walking through ancient streets and monuments. We suggest to move slowly, to discover every corner and breathe the calm city life. Then you can sit in one of the many tavern with small rooms overlooking the squares, to savor the delicacies of the Treviso area.
It is a city much loved by the Venetians because it is ties to the natural environment: the two rivers, Sile and Cagnan, follow the streets giving a unique charm to the historic centre enclosed by the ancient walls. The porticoed houses and palaces with beautiful frescoed facades, reflecting on the Buranelli canal and the Pescheria island (created to house the fish market), reveal the feeling between Treviso and its waters.
Lord’s Square with its Palazzo dei Trecento and the elegant Loggia Dei Cavalieri are the heart of the city and a meeting place for Treviso residents. A notable monument is the Duomo (Cathedral) which contains inside the Malchiostro Chapel the frescoes by Pordenone and the altarpiece with the Annunciation by Titian. Other artistic treasures are enclosed in the museum of Santa Caterina dei Servi di Maria, including the “cycle” of Sant’Orsola by Tommaso da Modena, and some paintings by G. Bellini, Lotto, Tiziano, J. Bassano. The Dominican church, San Nicolò also worths a visit, with its famous Capitolo hall, frescoed by Tommaso da Modena. For all the art lovers we suggest the Cararresi House: in the last years has become the venue for prestigious international exhibitions.
A special fountain in the purest Treviso’s lifestyle
The Breast’s fountain was built in 1559 at the behest of the mayor of the Republic of Venice. There was a strong drought and it is said that the fountain statue served both to celebrate the end of hard times and to exorcise the risk of new disasters. Until the fall of Venice, in honor of every new Podestà (the governor of the city), from the fountain gushed free red wine from one breast and white wine from the other one. And this all for three days, with joy and pleasure of all citizens. Today a copy of the sculptured stone fountain is placed in Palazzo Zignoli, in its beautiful courtyard.
The Italian sweet and the legend: Tiramisu meaning
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What about can we tell Tiramisu meaning? Just a few people know that Tiramisu, one of the most famous sweets in the world, was born in Treviso between 1700 and 1800. The word Tiramisu comes from the Trevisan dialect “Tireme su”. Italianized, the Tiramisu meaning is “lift me, strengthen my body”.
According to tradition, the dessert was conceived by a brilliant “maitresse” of a brothel located in the historic centre of Treviso. The madam, in dialect “Siora”, owner of the pleasure house, would have created this aphrodisiac cake (an invigorating sweet) to offer it to her guests at the end of the evenings. The aim was to reinvigorate them so that their wives did not notice a lack of energy when they returned home. It is said that when men, tired, went down the stairs, the maitresse prepared this cake and said in dialect: “desso ve tiro su mi”. So the Tiramisu means “now I will reinforce you”. Hence the origin of the name Tiramisu.
Tiramisu: ingredients and recent history
From this tradition it is easy to understand the ingredients of Tiramisu are all nutritious and hypercaloric: eggs, sugar, savoiardi cookies, mascarpone (a sort of cheese soft cream more constent than the double cream), coffee and cocoa. Even the Tiramisu easy recipe and its simple preparation confirm the legend, you don’t have to be a 3-starred chef to prepare this dessert: anyone can do it without any special tools.
The writer from Treviso Giovanni Comisso (1895-1969) tells us that this cake was known in Treviso already in 1800. Over the centuries, a veil of popular shame has hidden the true origin of the Tiramisu, which is not remembered in books until the second half of the ‘900. Before the spread of electricity (and the fridges) this dessert, not long-lasting, was consumed and known only in the province of Treviso and neighboring areas.
Some peculiar aspects, handed down just by word, unmistakably bear witness to the Venetian and Treviso origins of the Tiramisu dessert. The recipe derives from the “sbatudin”, a mixture of egg yolk beaten with sugar, commonly used by rural families in Treviso as a tonic for children, the elderly or for newlyweds (as aphrodisiac sweet). Mascarpone, coffee and cocoa were added to this before World War II.
Even today, according to Treviso habits and customs, it is presented as a gift to pregnant women, to children and to people in a state of weakness together with Savoy biscuits: oblong cookies, soft, light and easily digestible. Before the industrial production of Savoy biscuits that someone calls Tiramisu biscuits, this dessert was prepared with crumbly homemade cookies and in the poorest families with soft or old bread soaked in coffee.
The Tiramisu recipe
We propose the classic Tiramisu recipe with the addition of a touch of Marsala in the mascarpone cream and eggs to rebalance the taste. About Marsala wine we suggest to pour just a little bit so that the dessert keep a light aroma:Tiramisu is not an alcoholic recipe and remember that alcohol is dangerous for children and pregnant women. As you can read below it is an easy recipe that everyone can try to prepare.
Ingredients for 8 people:
- 500 g mascarpone cream
- 300 g Savoy biscuits (Savoiardi) also known as Tiramisu biscuits, or similar home made cookies
- 150 g Sugar
- 6 Very fresh egg yolks
- 4 Spoons from Marsala
- 4 Long espresso cups
- Bitter cocoa powder
How to prepare Tiramisu
You have to start with the mascarpone cream. Divide the yolks from the whites and, in a bowl, shake them with a whisk to obtain a snow cream.Pour the egg yolks and sugar in another bowl, knead for a long time with a whisk until the mixture is light and fluffy.
Gently add the mascarpone and Marsala sweet wine to this mixture. Then when it seems to have a good consistence add the egg whites to the mixture making a pale yellow cream. Cover the bottom of a rectangular serving dish with a layer of cookies and drench them carefully with coffee; alternatively, pass them gently in the coffee without soaking them too much before placing them on the plate.
Cover the layer with a layer of cream and sprinkle with a little cocoa powder. Repeat the same action until all the ingredients are used up, ending with a layer of mascarpone powdered with bitter cocoa. Then put the cake in the fridge for about three hours and your cake is ready to be served as the original Tiramisu.
Zutaten für Tiramisu
- 500 g Mascarponecreme
- 300 g Wirsingkekse (Savoiardi), auch Tiramisu-Kekse oder ähnliche hausgemachte Kekse
- 150 g Zucker6 Sehr frisches Eigelb
- 4 Löffel aus Marsala
- 4 Lange Espressotassen
Buon appetito with this special Italian dessert!
Brian G.B. tonelli