Venetian Galani: History, Information, Interesting Facts

Venetian Galani: history, information, interesting facts


The Venetian Carnival: an event unique in the world, renewing its magic year after year. During the period of its celebrations, all the pastry chefs of the Doge’s city prepare delicious ‘Galani’: let’s taste these sweet specialty, rich in history and tradition, surrounded by joyful music and beautiful masks.

Galani: typical dessert of the Venetian Carnival.


The origins of Venetian Galani.

The ‘Galani’ are, together with ‘Frittelle’ (in dialect,‘fritole’), the Venetian carnival desserts having the oldest tradition. A tradition rooted in a distant past: some historians argue that their ancestor could be the ‘frictilia’, prepared in ancient Rome during the ‘Saturnalia’ festivities. An important evidence supports this hypothesis: the fact that similar preparations, true heirs of the ‘frictilia’, can be found nowadays, under different names, in almost all the regions of Italy and even in many countries of Europe, once dominions of the Empire.
Most probably, the original recipe evolved differently in different places: in Venice this dessert is characterized by a texture particularly thin and a shape that reminds that of the ribbon, the ‘galan’, once worn around the neck by local girls.

It’s somewhat surprising that moving just a few kilometers from the Lagoon, pushing into the Veneto region, the same dessert is slightly different: the ‘crostolo’ is thicker, has notched edges, and is frequently cut in the middle.

*1: The region of Italy where Venice is located.


The ingredients for Venetian Galani.

Here follow the complete list of the ingredients generally used to make the most classic Venetian Galani:

  • Flour type 00;
  • Powdered sugar;
  • Granulated sugar;
  • Butter;
  • Eggs;

  • Grappa;
  • White wine;
  • Salt;
  • Yeast;
  • Grated lemon peel;

Venetian Galani: ingredients. Venetian Galani: ingredients.


Roman ‘frictilia’, the ancestors of Galani.

Venetian Galani: 'Saturnalia' (img-05)

The ‘frictilia’ are often considered the true ancestors of Galani. Just like the ‘Globulos’, this was a dessert that could not be missed during the festivity known as ‘Saturnalia’, an event in which, at the time of ancient Rome, the sowing and the god Saturn were celebrated.
Although not all sources agree, the ‘frictilia’ consisted of strips (*1), prepared using a simple dough made with flour (probably spelt), fried in pork fat and seasoned with honey.

*1: Some sources speculate that perhaps they were round in shape.

WebFoodCulture: the most typical specialties, the most traditional restaurants and producers.

The most typical specialties, the most traditional restaurants and producers.


Many types of Venetian Galani.

As already mentioned in another paragraph of this article, the ‘Galani’ can be rightly considered the grandchildren of a kind of pastry very popular at the time of the Roman Empire: the ‘frictilia’. This empire, at the height of its glory, stretched its borders far beyond the current Italian and European territories. It’s therefore no coincidence that preparations similar to the Galani, most probably also derived from the ‘frictilia’, can be found in places very distant from Venice.

Their names obviously change from place to place. Here follows some examples, related to the Italian regions:

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  • ‘Crostoli’: mainly in Veneto, Friuli Venezia Giulia and Trentino Alto Adige;
  • ‘Sfrappole’: in Emilia;
  • ‘Frappe’: mainly in Lazio, but also in some areas of Emilia;
  • ‘Cioffe’: mainly in Abruzzo;
  • ‘Bugie’: mainly in Liguria and Piedmont;
  • ‘Cenci’: mainly in Toscana;
  • ‘Chiacchiere’: Campania;

Some other examples, outside Italy:

  • ‘Raderkuchen’: Germany;
  • ‘Minciunele’: Romania;
  • ‘Chrusciki’: Poland;
  • ‘Oreillettes’: France;
  • ‘Khvorost’: Russia;


The ‘Haman’s ears’.

Venetian Galani: ‘Haman’s ears’ (cc-01)

Evidences about the presence of a Jewish community in Venice date back to before the Year 1000. Over the centuries, a strong bond formed between this people and the city. This deep connection, existing still today, led to a mix of traditions: a very interesting example of it, especially considering the topic of this article, are the ‘Haman’s ears’.
Made with a kind of dough similar to that of galani, the ‘ears’ differ for the triangular shape and the presence of a filling.
They are prepared during the Purim (*1).

*1: Also known as the ‘Feast of Lots’. It’s celebrated in the sixth month of Adar (according to the Hebrew calendar) and marks the salvation of the Jewish people from the threat posed by Haman, the wicked advisor of the Persian king Xerxes I.


Venezia: the city of Galani.

Galani are among the most traditional sweet specialties from Venice. The ‘Doge’s city’ has a very ancient history. Nowadays the provincial capital of the Veneto Region, located in the north/east of Italy.



It’s quite difficult to determine which is the most ancient pastry shop in Venice preparing Galani. Until we find it out, please refer to the following list including some of the most traditional places.
Pasticceria Rizzardini
Sestiere San Polo 1415 Campiello dei Meloni
30125 Venice – Italy
Tel. +39 041 522 3835
Pasticceria Rosa Salva
San Marco 950
30124 Venice – Italy
Tel. +39 041 521 0544


The preparation of Galani in video.

Here follows a short video (in Italian) showing how to make the most traditional Galani:

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Venetian Galani: when can be bought?

In Venice, the commercialization of Galani should start, at least theoretically, from the day after the Epiphany and end with Shrovetide. This is a non-mandatory rule, that is often disregarded.


Venetian carnival, Vivaldi and Galani.

Vivaldi’s music to accompany the tasting of some delicious Galani:

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Venetian Galani: Beverages.


‘Malvasia’ wine to accompany Galani.

Traditionally, the ideal drink to accompany Galani is ‘Malvasia’, sweet and alcoholic wine with good acidity.
It would be more correct to say ‘Malvasias’, since it’s produced in many places, using many grape varieties. A few examples: Malvasia di Candia, Istrian Malvasia (both white berried), Malvasia di Brindisi and Malvasia d’Asti (both black berried).


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The following images are public domain:

img-01 (*) – The Bucentaur on the mole on Ascension day, Canaletto, 1740 (Wikipedia Link) {PD-Art} {PD-US}
img-02 (*) – Piazza San Marco with the Basilica, Canaletto, 1730/1734 (Wikipedia Link) {PD-Art} {PD-US}
img-03 (*) – Bacino di San Marco, Canaletto, 1738 (Wikipedia Link) {PD-Art} {PD-US}
img-04 (*) – Venice, Piazza San Marco, Canaletto, 1758 (Wikipedia Link) {PD-Art} {PD-US}
img-05 (*) – ‘Saturnalia’, by Antoine Callet, 1783 (Wikipedia Link) {PD-Art} {PD-US}

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cc-01 – ‘Hamantaschen’, image belonging to Yoninah (Wikipedia Link)

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(**) Image released in public domain by its author.