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From fresh squeezed lemon on top of almost any dish to lemon flavored desserts and more, lemons are an essential part of Italian life. In Italy, the significance of lemons is brighter than their bright, yellow color. Walking through different regions and cities in Italy, you will often see bright, big lemons painted on ceramics, bottles of limoncello in every little store, and fruit stands filled with lemons the size of softballs. Though lemons grow in many parts of Italy, lemons in Italy are most often grown on the Amalfi Coast and in Sicily. While the Amalfi Coast claims to be the home of the true lemon, Sicilian lemons are more widely known and distributed throughout Italy, and many European countries. Although there may be arguments based on what region the best lemons come from, one thing all Italians can agree upon is the culinary importance of this vibrantly delicious fruit.
Growing the perfect lemon is a process Italians take great pride in and celebrate. The process of growing lemons requires an attentive and nurturing caretaker and a warm, subtropical climate. As a lemon tree begins to blossom, a fragrant sweet smell is released. This aroma is captured in the form of lemon essential oils, which are often used for perfume making, as well as adding fragrance to soaps and lotions. As lemons continue to grow and ripen on the tree, they become sweeter. A lemon so sweet and full of flavor, it is often enjoyed plain with just a pinch of salt on top! But it's not just the juice that is prized -- Italians enjoy every part of the lemon, including the peel and rind.
Limoncello is another popular way Italians use their lemons, a liquor made from the zest of the lemon, sugar, water, and alcohol. Another sweet treat, Granita, or better known as "Italian ice", is a widely popular lemon-flavored ice, made with the juice of the lemon, often enjoyed alone on a hot day or on a brioche bun. In fact, many Italian amari, bitter-sweet Italian liqueurs infused with citrus and herbs, use lemon peels and rinds.
When every part of the lemon is used up, the remaining seeds are perfect to plant and start the process of growth all over again.
Celebrations are held throughout Italy to celebrate the lemon harvest. These festivals are typically held at the end of April or in May, with the best harvest times ranging from end of March to early October. These festivals involve barrels and barrels of fresh lemons, and lemon specialties. Lemon festivals are an occasion to celebrate all things lemon, taste the fresh lemon-inspired specialties, and of course bring some lemons home!
In the town of Monterosso al Mare, one of the five towns of Cinque Terre in the northern region of Liguria, a popular lemon festival, Festa del Limone, is held annually. The whole town participates with village stalls stocked with lemon products. Shops lining the streets participate in a contest judging the best lemon decor according to the theme. Restaurants serve special lemon-inspired menus, with special lemon cakes and lemon marmalade being two of the most sought after specialties.
Tre Fontane, a small beach town in Sicily located in the region of Trapani, celebrates their festival of lemons in late spring. This celebration, held on Tre Fontane's piazza (local square), features fresh lemon specialties for sale, with all proceeds going to a local charity. We reached out to Tre Fontane native, GianVito Pellegrino to ask him why lemons are so important to his hometown. He responded and said,
“Sicilian lemons are so famous in Italy because we have the perfect weather conditions to grow them. Wherever you are in Italy, Sicilian lemons are an assurance because you can count on them to be delicious.”
Many Italian-Americans take pride in growing lemon trees that remind them of their families' beloved homeland, keeping the tradition of the Italian lemon alive!
Join us in celebrating lemons with some of our favorite lemon inspired specialties.
Rich in flavor of armelline almonds, pure sugar, and egg white, this tender and richly aromatic amaretto cookie with lemon is typical of central Liguria.
Frantoio D'Orazio's infused extra virgin olive oils bring together grassy, aromatic olive oil from Puglia with natural, infused flavors. The lemon infused olive oil is a simple way to bring this fresh flavor into your kitchen.
Channeling the citrusy bliss of a hot summer day, this marmalade, made with fragrant Sicilian oranges and lemons, is a burst of flavor in a jar. A fine companion to crunchy crostini, or baked into a tart, this marmalade brings all the brightness of Sicily to your table.
Caffarel Limoncello Chocolates are nothing short of extraordinary. These fine chocolates have a smooth Italian Limoncello filling (3% lemon liqueur), surround by a bitter dark chocolate shell that is just the right thickness to en-robe the limoncello filling. Presented in a beautiful yellow wrapped bag.