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Guide Turistiche Messina
5 Jun

The Marzipan fruit

Charles V, the emperor on whose vast empire the sun never sets, landed in Trapani in 1535, August 20th. After his conquest of Tunis, very big celebrations took place on his honour, as Charles V was the first emperor visiting Sicily after King Alfonso the Magnanimous.

The visit of Charles V to Sicily

From Trapani he headed towards Palermo, making a stop in Monreale and getting to the capital of Sicily in September 13th. During his staying he is remembered for healing the relationship between the Empire and the Sicilian nobility and for visiting the monastery of the Benedictines, nuns also known as nuns of Martorana.

History of the Marzipan fruit

The noble Eloisa Martorana established the religious order in 1194 thus the order was called after her like the Church next to the convent.

The orchard of their monastery was famous for its abundant orange trees charged with fruits during the year but bare in summer. Everybody knows that Charles V was a glutton for oranges. He had heard about the sweetness and juiciness of those oranges and wanted to have a taste of them.

Unfortunately, the hot summer temperatures in Palermo were not suitable for those fruits typically of the winter season therefore the Martorana nuns hung on the trees marzipan sweets of their own production, whose recipe was jealously kept.

The sweets looked so real and impressed Charles V so that he believed they were real oranges; when he tried them, he found they had a delicious taste. Since that moment, Charles V asked the nuns to provide continuously him with those sweets.

From then on the almond paste, the main ingredient of these sweets took the name of royal paste or as we say in Sicilian dialect pasta riali simply because they were always present at the court.

Today…

In 1866 with the abolition of the religious orders, the confectionery production in the convent gave up. Despite that, the Martorana fruit kept being incredibly popular around Palermo because the confectioners took over the original recipe and begun producing large quantity of it.

Still today in the Sicilian confectioners’ window-shops, no matter to the season, the marzipan sweets are always there.

Caterina De Simone (for the translation Lilly Galletta)

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