The mostaccioli of Soriano Calabro
|The ancient town of Soriano Calabro stands among the hills of the Serre Plateau, in the province of Vibo Valentia, about 100 km south from Cosenza.
It is one of the most important inland areas with its flourishing handcrafts.
The imposing wall of the church of San Domenico its a reminder of its historical past.
Between the 16th and 17th centuries, the San Domenico Monastery became an international centre of spirituality and doctrine of the Dominican order.
In the Baroque period, this convent became one of the most rich and famous Dominican convents in Europe and one of the most visited shrines in southern Italy.
The new sanctuary, built on the site of the old which was destroyed by the earthquake (1659), contains numerous works of art , including painting of Pope BenedettoXI, possibly the work of Michelangelo di Caravaggio, a marble bust of San Domenico and a carved 13 meter long choir walnut stalls from the 13th century.
The monastery was completely destroyed by the 1783's earthquake which also proved to be fatal for many other villages and towns of the region.
It and could only be re-constructed at the beginning of the nineteenth century.
Today the imposing ruins of the monastery and the church of San Domenico represent the most important monument of the town, and one of the most terrible memories of the natural disaster.
Soriano is also known for its hard biscuits known as Mostaccioli, also called "mastazzola", "mustazzoli" of various shapes cheerfully decorated with colored tin foil.
The most common traditional shapes , known as "a parma" , "u panaru", "a grasta", " u pisci spada" u cori", "a sirena"; (the palm, the basket, the heart, the swordfish and the siren).
The mostaccioli, these scented sweets, have always been the protagonists in the Calabrian fairs and a great importance for the local economy.
Their origin is a ritual one, when the mustaccioli was used as a offering to the devoted saint "per grazia ricevuta" ( for favors received). Local fairs and other festivities were always memorable events.
Among the stalls, erected for the occasion, an important place was occupied by the so-called 'mastazzolari" vendors of typical calabrese sweets, they were to be found (still today) everywhere there was a town fair or a market.
They used to carry with them a very special chest... a treasure trove of shining colors, amber and gold, silver and green and red ...and a lingering scent of honey and wine must ...theirs was for kids a special stall indeed.
The shapes of mostaccioli represent forms of anthropomorphic animals, flowers, saints, hearts, fish, mermaids, goats, roosters, baskets, horses etc.
The heart-shaped mostaccioli, decorated with strips of red foil symbolizes love and was usually given as a gift at engagements, weddings and other celebrations of love.
Because of their deep cultural values and 'folksy' artistry, beautiful relics are exposed at the Museo del Folclore di Palmi, Museo delle Arti e Tradizioni Popolari in Rome and il Centro del Folclore in Soriano.
Legend says that the secret recipe was given to the people of Soriano by a mysterious monk to thank them for their generosity,..and who then disappeared in thin air.
For the record, however, the introduction of mostaccioli is attributed to the monks of the nearby San Bruno Certosa, (convent) and then, later, around 1500, the Dominicans of the convent of San Domenico, who would have taught the art of pastry to local artisans.
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