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A Message From the President

Ciao come state ???   Hi, how are you ???

Siamo entrati in Quaresima.  We are in Lent.

The last day of Carnival was on February 13th, but for the Milan diocese it was the 17th and now we are all in Lent. I know for some of us, besides the religious moment, it means to give up something and for others it is signified by eating fish on Fridays. I would like, in this President’s Corner, to try to explain the history of two traditional Italian desserts that are present in the Italian culture to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus.

The first dessert is called La Colomba Pasquale (literally translated as “The Easter Dove”). This is considered by many to be the counterpart of the well-known Christmas desserts Panettone and Pandoro. Similarly to these Christmas desserts, the Colomba is made from flour, eggs, sugar, and yeast but it differs (from Panettone) in that candied orange peel is added instead of raisins. The shape of the dough is in the form of a dove and then topped with pearl sugar and almonds before being baked. 

The Colomba was originally conceived by the publicity director of the Milanese baking company Motta, Dino Villani, during the 1930s. He wanted to continue using the same ingredients and baking methods that were used for their Panettone but gear it towards the solemn period of Easter. In 1944 the recipe was taken up by Angelo Vergani who founded the company Vergani Srl in Milan who still produces this cake even today.

Some prefer to believe that the Colomba Pasquale has its origins from legends dating back to the 7th Century when the Longobardo Queen Teodolinda was hosting the Irish abbot Saint Colombano along with his monks. An extravagant dinner was planned with delicious meats however, even though it wasn’t a Friday, Colombano and his guests refused to eat the meats during the Lent period of penitence and sacrifice. Queen Teodolinda didn’t understand and became offended. But, Colombano came to her rescue and raised his right hand and made a sign of the cross. At that moment the meats were transformed into candied doves made from bread. The Queen was so grateful that she gave Colombano some territory and there was built the San Colombano Abbey that today is located in Bobbio.

The second dessert is the “Uovo di Pasqua” meaning Easter egg. The traditional large chocolate egg that is filled with toys is fairly recent, but the giving of decorated eggs goes back to Medieval times. It was Medieval thinking that the heavens and the planets were two separate hemispheres and these created the egg. Ancient Egyptians believed the egg to be the fulcrum of the four elements (water, air, earth, and fire). Exchanging eggs was part of the Persian culture that represented the arrival of Spring. Catholics used the egg as a symbol of life and of the risen Christ. In early times, the egg was boiled in water with leaves and flowers so that it would take on a golden color. Medieval times also saw the beginning of creating artificial eggs that were decorated in precious materials including gold, platinum, or silver which were presented to the aristocrats and noble families. Peter Carl Faberge began his prestigious egg decorating in 1883 as a special gift for Tsar Maria.

In modern times, many decorated eggs are collected and not eaten until after Lenten fasting. During the 20th Century the larger chocolate eggs became very popular. These eggs ranged in many sizes and most of them contained a surprise inside its hollow center. Initially the eggs were manufactured by prestigious bakers but has now become quite diffused all over the world.

Please continue to support the efforts of the Italian American Cultural Center of Iowa in order to spread our culture throughout our community.

I wish you all a blessed and thoughtful Easter season.

Buona Pasqua  Happy Easter

Paolo Bartesaghi, President

Italian American Cultural Center of Iowa 

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St Joseph’s Day Celebration

The Italian-American Cultural Center of Iowa will present their 21st annual St Joseph Altar celebration on Sunday, March 18 and Monday, March 19. Doors will open at 5:00PM, with the program beginning 5:30PM. The blessing of the altar and a traditional Lenten meal will take place on Sunday evening. All day visitation is Monday, with refreshments at 9:00AM. A light luncheon will be served from 1:00PM to 2:00PM. The entire celebration is open to the public free of charge.

Families are invited to sponsor an altar and provide decorative items, such as statues, family pictures, artifacts, etc. Flowers for each altar will be provided. The suggested donation for each altar is $50. If you are interested, please call 515-244-4672 or 515-250-8804 no later then March 1.

Several days are involved in making the traditional St Joseph cookies and breads. All participants are welcome.
               March 8    9:00AM         March 9   9:00AM
               March 12  9:00AM         March 13  9:00AM
               March 14  6:00PM         March 15  9:00AM
               March 16  9:00AM         March 17  9:00AM

Please call 515-250-8804 or 515-244-4672 if you would like to attend the evening session.

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A Message From The President

Siamo arrivati anche a febbraio

We have also arrived to February

I hope you have had a good January. The weather varied from frigid cold to mildly sunny but we survived. In February we will begin our yearly events starting with an Italian conversation class every Wednesday for 8 weeks. Please sign up if you’d like to participate in this. Naturally, all of the preparations of our St. Joseph event are going to start in the middle of February and culminate with the Feast of St. Joseph in mid-March.

As I began to think about this month’s article I reflected on some of the many treasures displayed in the museum at the Italian American Cultural Center of Iowa. One of these treasures is the many examples of Murano glass.

Murano Glass is made in Murano, one of the over 150 islands that make up Venice in northeast Italy. Murano’s glassblowers were (and still are) leaders for centuries on a European and worldwide level. They have become masters of this art and, in many cases, pass on this art of glassblowing to generations within the same family. Centuries-old techniques are still used today by Murano glassblowers to create massive and elegant chandeliers to figurines to stemware to wine-stoppers. Styles range from very traditional to extremely contemporary.

Murano Glass consists of 70% silica sand added to 30% stabilizers usually made up of soda and lime. These stabilizers allow the glass to melt at a lower temperature and also prevent the glass’s solubility in water. Murano Glass starts out colorless. By adding small amounts of minerals, oxides, and chemical derivatives to the base powder the glass can take on an infinite combination of transparent, opaque, or alabaster colors. Curiosity: it is impossible to obtain the color black in Murano Glass. If one looks very closely (or holds the object up to the light) the true color will be either a dark blue, dark purple, or dark green. Yet the color is so intense and dense that it appears black.


Our own museum houses many examples of Murano glass coming from some of the most prestigious and famous glass factories in Murano, including Salviati, Seguso Viro, Barbini, and Carlo Moretti just to name a few. Please take time to visit our museum at the Italian American Cultural Center of Iowa.

Please support the efforts of the Italian American Cultural Center of Iowa in order to spread our culture throughout our community.

Grazie – Thank you

Buon San Valentino a tutti – Happy Valentine’s Day to you all

Paolo Bartesaghi, President

Italian American Cultural Center of Iowa

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A Message From the President

E siamo arrivati al 2018!

We have arrived to 2018!


So much has happened in 2017 and I am sure much will happen in 2018. During this past month, Santa Lucia and the two (and not one) cookie classes were a huge success and well attended. Be ready for more of these types of events continuing throughout 2018.

In January our Event Committee will meet and be busy organizing  the Calendar of Events for the whole year. We hope to publish this with our February Newsletter, so be looking for opportunities to become involved and to attend.

On January 24th we will be offering a class featuring three typical Italian soups. Please visit our website for additional information.

Please remember to look for our newly formatted Newsletter that will also be available on our website in the 1st quarter of 2018.

Subscribe” to our website at to receive notifications of each new posting.

As we begin the New Year I began wondering how we determine the start of a new year. I began researching and found that previous to our Gregorian calendar, the world used the Julian calendar method. Yet, what was used before this to count days and seasons?

It was the Roman calendar that was used by the world. This was mostly an observational lunar calendar whose months began in conjunction with the first signs of a new crescent moon. Since each lunar cycle is about 29.5 days long, each month lasted between 29 and 30 days. However, twelve months of this fell 10 to 11 days short of the solar year, so this was made up through some form of calculation during the winter months. That way the Romans were able to maintain their seasonal religious festivals. The Romans eventually organized their year as one with ten fixed months, each containing 30 or 31 days. The nearly 60 days missing were, again, made up during the winter months as additional days belonging to no month, were added until it seemed everything was back in its’ proper place.

The Julian calendar was proposed by none other than Julius Caesar around 45 BC and took effect on January 1 by an edict. He was hoping for a more accurate timeline for sowing and harvesting crops. This calendar had a regular year consisting of 365 days and was divided into 12 months. An added day (leap day) was added to February every four years, thus, the calendar was 365.25 days long on average. This was intended to approximate the Solar Year.

However, Greek astronomers had known that the Solar Year was slightly shorter (11 minutes) than 365.25 days and this Julian calendar did not compensate for this difference. As a result, this calendar would gain about 3 days every 4 centuries.

The Julian calendar was not corrected until 1582 when Pope Gregory XIII issued the Gregorian Reform establishing what is known as the Gregorian Calendar that is currently used even today. The Gregorian calendar has the same months and days as the Julian calendar, however, this calendar does not add a Leap Day in years that are divisible by 100. The exception for this is when the year is evenly divisible by 400, which is why the year 3000 had 29 days in February. However, there will be no Leap Day in the year 2100 or 2200, for example.

Countries, including Italy, Spain and France converted from Julian to Gregorian immediately in 1582. Great Britain didn’t switch until 1752. Greece didn’t stop using the Julian calendar until as recently as 1922. Some wonder why Russia didn’t switch to the Gregorian calendar with the rest of Europe. Many believe this was due to the fact that this calendar was introduced by a Roman Catholic Pope. Russia did eventually switch over in 1918.

Thanks again for your support in 2017 and I kindly request your continued support of the efforts of the Italian-American Cultural Center of Iowa in 2018 in order to spread our culture throughout our community.

Grazie – Thank You

Buon Anno Nuovo – Happy New Year

Paolo Bartesaghi

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A Message From the President

Ciao a tutti, Hello to everybody,

As we enter into the Christmas season, I would like to tell you about a few of the events happening at the Italian American Cultural Center:

  • December 1, the tree will be ready for our annual Mitten Tree where we collect mittens, gloves, hats, and scarves for the needy.
  • December 10 at 3pm, we are having our annual Santa Lucia celebration.
  • December 12, Nancy Danca will teach a cookie making class featuring love-knots and chiacchiere (wandas)
  • Some new and exciting news about our newsletter – starting at the beginning of the new year we are going to have a digital newsletter. However, we will continue to mail a paper copy for those who wish to read it in this manner. We are currently studying the layout and content and we will also feature paid advertising. I will keep you posted of all information regarding this new initiative.

I would like to let you know about the history and traditions of Natale (Christmas). Natale is a Christian festivity celebrating the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem Judea (now known as Palestine). December 25th is celebrated throughout the Christian world while people prepare Nativity scenes, Christmas trees, midnight Mass, gift exchanges, and singing holiday carols. In Italy, this day is traditionally used for preparing the Presepe (Nativity) in churches, town squares, and public places. This tradition began with the first living Presepe in 1223 by San Francesco d’Assisi in Greccio (Lazio). Wooden statues sculpted by Arnoldo di Cambio can be found in Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. Nowadays, France has made these Presepe a very important tradition in their holiday festivities, especially in the Provence region where they are known as “Santons”.

Christian Orthodox celebrate Natale on January 6, which is the Twelfth Day. Many of us know the carol “The Twelve Days Of Christmas” which represents the time period between December 25 and January 6.

The Pine tree was chosen by the Christian people as the Christmas Tree from all of the evergreen trees because of its triangular shape which represents the Holy Trinity. The first Christmas tree was introduced into the holiday season in Germany in 1611 by the Duchess of Brieg and in France beginning in 1840 by the Duchess of Orleans. Decorating the Christmas tree for Christmas was already popular by 1600 in Northern Europe. Catholics, after the reformation of Martin Luther (1483-1546) considered decorating Christmas Trees to be a Protestant tradition. It wasn’t until the Congress of Vienna (1814-1815) that the Prussians began diffusing this tradition of decorating also in Catholic countries.

I wish each and every one of you a Blessed Holiday Season.

Please support the efforts of the Italian American Cultural Center in order to spread our culture in our community.

Grazie – Thank you

BUON NATALE – Merry Christmas!!

Paolo Bartesaghi, President

Italian American Cultural Center of Iowa

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Oh What a Night!

Photos from “An Evening in Sicily.

View here

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Santa Lucia Celebration

This year’s celebration will begin Sunday, December 10th at 3:00PM with the lighting of the Christmas fire, a candlelight procession to the altar of St Lucy, followed by a prayer service for those who have departed in 2017.

Ragazzi Italian Folk Dancers will perform 2 Christmas dances. Traditional “cuccia” will be served.

Open to the public, free of charge.

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Message From The President

Buon giorno e ciao a tutti!
Good morning and hi to everyone!

The month of October may be gone, but we still have our fundraising dinner, An Evening in Sicily, on November 9th that will conclude our Heritage Month.

During this past week a few of our board members taught a Limoncello class and I can tell you that it was a huge success.

As we begin to prepare for our American holiday of Thanksgiving the Italians (who don’t have this festivity) are organizing something more regional and relating to the different areas of Italy; these are what is commonly known as the Sagre di paese.  A Sagra di paese is a popular festival that generally occurs at a time between the end of September to the middle/end of November and is a festivity celebrating the harvest of local produce that includes wine, olives, vegetables, meats, cheeses and much more. Many times, this is accompanied with a fair and market which can last for days. People gather together as family and friends to participate in these Sagras. In many instances this also coincides with the Patron Saint festival of the town, which adds a religious aspect to this celebration.

Initially, even the United States and Canada celebrated a regional form of Thanksgiving beginning in 1621 that varied in dates from September to December. Modern Thanksgiving in the U.S. was officially proclaimed in 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln as the final Thursday in November in an attempt to create a sense of unity between the Northern and Southern states. However, some states were reluctant to recognize this and a nationwide date was not realized until the Reconstruction was completed in the 1870s. On December 26, 1941 President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a joint resolution changing the date of Thanksgiving to the fourth Thursday of November hoping that this earlier date would provide the country with an economic boost.

In any case, I am happy that in the world (no matter whether one is in a small town in Italy or a huge U.S. metropolis) we can find a time to unite with family and friends and celebrate nature’s bounty and can offer thanks.

Auguro a tutti Voi un Felice Giorno del Ringraziamento
I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving
Thank you

Paolo Bartesaghi, President

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Giving Locally

We love filling out this BIG check!!

2017 Festival donations surpassed $5,600 for the Food Bank of Iowa.

Thank you everyone for helping us support this fine organization.

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2017 Outstanding Citizens


Rose Russo and Nancy Danca were presented the Outstanding Citizen Award at this year’s Columbus Day Dinner for their ‘above and beyond’ contributions to the Italian-American community.

Thank you, ladies, for your continued service.

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