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‘Anti-vegan’ Christmas cake ad provokes outcry in Italy

Panettone is an Italian cake filled with raisins and sultanas, and is a typical Christmas treat. But the seemingly harmless dessert has led to backlash after some vegan activists claimed a famous cake-maker was mocking the plant-based diet.

'Anti-vegan' Christmas cake ad provokes outcry in Italy
The humble panettone. Photo: Nicola/Flickr

It's all because of a TV advert created by Motta, a company which has been churning out pannetone since 1919 and intended to celebrate Christmas culinary traditions in its festive ad campaign.

The 30-second clip (below) shows the preparation of the typical cake, and as eggs are cracked and dough kneaded, the voiceover says:

“To make our panettone, we could have used tofu, papaya, seitan, seaweed, and cooked it for 30 seconds in the microwave… But no! We made it by following our recipe, the original one since 1919. Since always.”

But some vegan activists took exception to the light-hearted ad – which ended with the word 'Scherzo!' which means 'joke' or 'I'm joking'.

One YouTube commenter, Chiara Maiutto, described the campaign as “ridiculous and shameful” and said that it was “incredibly low” to make fun of people who choose an alternative diet.

She added thatsoon companies would have to create vegan panettone because “customers determine the market”.

Italian vegan food blogger Carmen Luciano dedicated a post to the advert, criticizing the “ignorance” of the panettone producers by pointing out that tofu and seitan (wheat gluten) would not be suitable ingredients for a cake anyway, and that it would be “absurd” to cook a cake made of such products in the microwave.

She also pointed out the bad conditions suffered by many hens and cows, and said that this was “nothing to laugh about”.

“Dear Motta, you can respect tradition without offending those who make healthy and cruelty-free choices.”

But plenty of people saw the funny side to the advert, calling its creators “geniuses” and “heroes”.

“I'll be buying Motta panettone just for the anti-hipster marketing,” said one Italian.
 
The advert for Panettone Motta is funny. There are too many people who don't understand what irony is and just create excuses to cause controversy.
 
According to the Italian Research Institute, Euripses, one percent of the Italian population in 2016 is a vegan. That's a rise of 0.4 percent on the previous year, and one of the fastest rates of change anywhere in the world.
 
But the country's growing vegan population have been on the receiving end of plenty of vitriol this year – from one of the country's top chefs announcing his desire to 'kill all vegans', to proposals to jail parents who feed their kids a vegan diet.
 
However, in Turin, the city's Five Star Movement mayor has announced a plan to turn the northern city into 'the world's first vegan city' by promoting a plant-based diet.
 
READ MORE: Why does Italy have a beef with vegans?

Why does Italy have a beef with vegans?
Photo: Julia Kilpatrick/Flickr

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CHRISTMAS

Five of Italy’s most magical Christmas markets in 2021

Even though Covid cases are rising in Italy, most of the country's Christmas markets will open to spread some festive cheer and fill our hearts (and bellies) with glad tidings. Here's a rundown of five of Italy's most magical Christmas markets.

The Italian Christmas markets you should put on your wish list for 2021.
The Italian Christmas markets you should put on your wish list for 2021. Photo by Daniil Silantev on Unsplash

In 2020, many Christmas markets in Italy had to close or were scaled back because of the pandemic restrictions. This year, at least at the time of writing, lots of markets are set to open in the coming weeks.

Some have safety measures in place, such as mask-wearing and the requirement to show a green pass, so remember to check the rules before you travel.

READ ALSO: Where do you now need to show a Covid green pass in Italy?

While most of the larger and more famous Christmas markets are in the north of Italy, smaller markets and other seasonal events are held in towns and cities all over the country.

With that said, here are five of the most enchanting Christmas markets in Italy that count among our favourites.

Photo by cmophoto.net on Unsplash

Trento, Trentino–Alto Adige

‘I mercatini di Trento’ is one of Italy’s most famous Christmas markets. Set in the northern region of Trentino-Alto Adige, which borders Austria and Switzerland, Trento is full of that mountainous frosty glee that warms the cockles of your heart.

Every year, visitors are attracted by the artisanal goods, the abundant offering of seasonal gastronomical treats and the cosy atmosphere of a historic centre decked out in twinkling lights.

More and more stalls come to Trento each year, meaning there’s always something new to see, buy and eat every time you go.

The city’s two main squares welcome visitors with their cosy lodges, where you can watch live demonstrations and listen to traditional music. And with the snow-peaked backdrop and fresh air, Trento puts on a Christmas market to remember.

Trento Christmas market runs from November 20th to January 9th.

READ ALSO: Is Italy likely to bring back Covid restrictions this Christmas?

Christmas decorations on display in a market in central Bolzano. Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP

Bolzano, South Tyrol

Another Christmas market not to be missed in the north of Italy is the spectacular display in Bolzano, arguably one of the most beautiful in Italy.

This festive extravaganza located in the region of South Tyrol is claimed to be Italy’s biggest Christmas market and, after almost two decades of the event, always has something new to delight return visitors.

New for 2021 are some stalls dedicated to grappa and beer with tastings of South Tyrolean spirits and craft beers, while for wine lovers, there’s a dedicated wine lodge offering tastings of the local labels.

Those delicious yuletide aromas of pine, cinnamon and mulled wine fill the streets, while squares are bathed in a romantic glow when the stalls come to town and transform the city into a spellbinding winter wonderland.

What better time to sample a local strudel, feast on some salty speck or indulge in some alpine homemade sweets?

The big Christmas tree in the central Piazza Walther will be lit up on Thursday November 25th to launch the market, which will remain open until January 6th.

Christmas lights during the “Luci d’Artista” (Artist’s Lights of Salerno) (Photo by MARIO LAPORTA / AFP)

Salerno, Campania

The northern mountain cities don’t claim complete ownership of Italy’s best Christmas markets, however.

One of the most eagerly awaited Christmas events can be found in the southern region of Campania: the illuminations called Luci d’artista (Artist’s Lights) in Salerno.

After being cancelled last year, the display is back for 2021 offering visitors a show of real works of art made in lights.

Due to the pandemic measures, access to the city will be restricted, especially on weekends when buses will be limited.

Strolling around the city, you can see this world-famous spectacle as you go, while also taking a tour of the Christmas markets, located on the city’s seafront. All in all, it makes for an unusually marvellous Christmas shopping experience right on the coast.

The lights will run from November 26th until January 30th.

Photo by Lynda Hinton on Unsplash

Verona, Veneto

How much more romantic and magical can you get than a Christmas market in Italy’s city of love? In fact, the market’s organisers describe Verona as, “The city of love, the city of Christmas”.

Even Romeo and Juliet’s tragedy lights up with the seasonal colours, sounds and smells. The city’s streets and squares transform into a dreamy setting for festive shopping and socialising: handicraft products in glass, wood, ceramics and many food and wine specialities tempt and delight.

The entrance to the city will be illuminated by hundreds of lights, creating what they call “a Champs Elysees effect”, continuing through all the streets of the historic centre. All the sparkles and glow are set against a backdrop of the famous Roman Arena and the unmissable Christmas star in front.

There will be more than 100 exhibitors this year and for 2021, the market will run in collaboration with the “Christkindlmarkt” of Nuremberg in Germany, bringing a heartwarming fairy-tale atmosphere to the fair city.

Verona’s Christmas market will run from November 12th to December 26th.

Photo by Christian Della Torre on Unsplash

Como, Lombardy

The lake setting and Christmas atmosphere make this a unique festive market you’ll look back on for years to come – and where better to get excited about the exchanging of Christmas gifts than Italy’s so-called city of toys ‘la città dei balocchi‘?

Starting with the Magic Light festival, its projections and lights transform the city’s building and squares into an open-air gallery. Meanwhile, delightful wooden huts create a Christmas village, offering local specialities, gifts and mouthwatering dishes.

There are also numerous refreshment and tasting points giving visitors the chance to sample menus typical of the area. And the unmissable giant ferris wheel is worth a whirl too.

If you want to work off some of those festive chocolates, waffles and gingerbread hearts, you can get your cheeks rosy at the ice rink in Piazza Cavour.

Plus, you can’t miss (literally) the traditional Christmas fir tree, illuminated by thousands of lights.

Como’s Christmas market runs from November 27th to January 6th.

Where are your favourite Christmas markets in Italy? If you have any suggestions, please leave a comment below. 

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