Dominion of the Popes
The splendour of the court - as, through various processes, in all of the peninsular - lost lustre in the XVII century when there was reaffirmed, in Umbria, the dominion of the Popes that - excluding the years of the French experience - persisting even though not always peacefully, until 1860 when the region was annexed to the state of the house of Savoia. Dark years in which there seemed to be forgotten the sumptuous culinary customs of the gentlemen's palaces.
But the traditions of Umbria in many areas and certainly that of culinary, was not destroyed by those events and the rich, imaginative Umbrian cooking remains still very much tied to the most ancient rules, to the research of those tastes that have been handed down from one generation to the other, in defense of genuineness, of variety and authenticity. Due to the shortage of texts and documents it is easy to reconstruct the thread that moves through the centuries and tied to the best traditions, because, far away from fashions and interference of the markets, Umbria offers today what it offered in the past, even if we must take into consideration inevitable changes, due to the modern production of the foods.
Many Umbrian dishes are tied to ancient festivals, above all those of religious origins. The 9th December, for example, in many parts of Umbria there is prepared the "Pizza della venuta" to celebrate the nocturnal transfer of the house of the Virgin Mary at Loreto (Marches) which the popular legend attributes to a flight of angels. The "venuta" is precisely that event that is celebrated - and in some places is still celebrated – by lighting outside large torches to illuminate the path of the angels. The pizza of this feast is characterised by grated pecorino cheese which accompanies sultanas in a combination that is very pleasant.
Many focacce and schiacciate (or stiacciate - all flat breads) of Umbria are famous because there are many varieties and all very tasty other than being of very old origins; they seem to date back - with certain modifications - to the Roman ages. Those that are prepared for the Easter celebrations are called, exactly, Torta di Pasqua (Easter cake); and to be Umbrian you could never renounce this tradition as it is part of the rite most widely observed with strong attachments. The day of Easter, returning from the Church, breakfast is a very bountiful meal: there is offered the Torta di Pasqua (a bread dough enriched with pecorino cheese, eggs, butter, lard, salt, pepper and olive oil) with boiled eggs - which have been blessed - and salami which often appears for this occasion as it is the beginning of the right period after the maturing. In many religious feasts the food is part of the rites and testifies to an age-long attention to the Church which can be found in many aspects of Umbrian life.