Dolci dei morti – Dead people sweets

“fave dei morti,” typical Italian biscuits, Perugia – Cantalamessa CC BY 3.0

Dolci dei morti – Dead people sweets


It is a tradition in Europe and especially Italy to prepare particular cakes close to November 2. They often remind in the name of this recurrence or the shape and consistency. Another frequent reference is to fingers, whereas the horse-shaped cake is probably connected to the legend of Proserpina.
Still today, in some Italian countries, people place these sweets on laid tables on the night between November 1 and November 2, sure they will be visited by their dead.


  • flour,
  • eggs,
  • sugar,
  • aromatizers
  • finely chopped almonds
  • sometimes chocolate,
  • jam,
  • candied fruit

Cakes of the dead contain simple ingredients such as flour, eggs, sugar, and aromatizers; often, finely chopped almonds or sometimes chocolate, jam, and candied fruit.


These sweets are present, with few variations, as homemade, artisanal, or pastry preparations almost everywhere in the Italian peninsula. The names given are similar from North to South, leaving out the dialectal forms.


“Fave da morto,” “fave dei morti,” or “fave dolci”: almond pastries, ovoidal and flattened in shape; they look like a macaroon but have a greater consistency (Emilia-Romagna, Lazio, Lombardy, Marche, and Umbria). Favette dei Morti” are different, even though they are always made with almonds. They are present all over the North-East of Italy, but in Veneto, in Trieste, and Friuli, they have three colors (cream, brown, and pink) and vary from crunchy to soft (Favette Triestine). In the Bergamo variant, the cookies are flavored with anise and grappa.
“Ossa di morto,” sometimes “ossa da mordere,” Italianizing the Piedmontese “òss ëd mòrt” or “òss da mòrde”: cookies with a hard texture, with almonds and egg white (Marche, Piedmont, and Lombardy).
“Ossi dei morti,” typical of Parma, made of short pastry, covered with sugar or chocolate icing.
“Ossa di morto”: oblong-shaped cookies (Veneto) are sometimes covered with chocolate (Sicily).
According to Sicily’s original version, “Ossa di morto” or “Scardellini” are very dry in consistency and white and light brown. With sugar, flour, egg white, and clove water, they are called “Paste di Garofano.” Very often confused with “Mostacciole,” which, instead, are made with a mixture of honey and spices, such as cloves.
Ossa di morto” are also present in the area of Siena, with origins in Montepulciano. Of crumbly consistency and round shape, they are kneaded with chopped almonds.

Bread derivatives

“I Cavalli”: large, horse-shaped bread (Trentino-Alto Adige).
“Le mani”: circular-shaped bread with two hands joining (Sicily).
“Pan dei morti”: small sweet rolls made of crumbled cookies, dried fruit, and packed on wafers or dusted with powdered sugar (Lombardy).
Pan co’ Santi” are sweet rolls with pepper, raisins, and walnuts, prepared on All Saints’ Day in Siena and Maremma.

Martorana Fruit – Dedda71 CC BY 3.0

Marzipan derivatives

Martorana fruit
“Apostle’s Fingers”: hand-shaped sweet, made of egg pasta filled with ricotta cream and cream, typical of Sicilian pastry.
Frutta di Martorana is a reproduction of fruits made of almond flour and sugar, also typical of Sicilian tradition.
Nougat variants
“Torrone dei morti” (Nougat of the dead): present in the Neapolitan culinary tradition, they are soft nougats with a size of 50-70 cm, sold in pieces. Unlike classic nougat, they are not made of honey but cocoa and are prepared in many flavors, hazelnuts or dried and candied fruit, coffee, or other flavors.


Fanfullicchie is sweets from Lecce that are sold exclusively on November 1st and 2nd. These are mint-flavored candy canes, usually in a twisted shape.
Sugar puppets (or, in Sicilian: pupaccena, pupi ri Zuccaro): present in the Sicilian tradition, they are colored sugar figurines, reproducing paladins or generic male and female figures (the dead, the ancestors of the family).
Rame di Napoli: in Catania, in the days before and after the commemoration of the dead, it is traditional to eat a soft cocoa cookie covered with chocolate icing.
Catalan Biscuits are cookies covered with light sugar or cocoa icing, typical of Palermo and present in other areas of Sicily.
“La Colva,” a sweet from Apulia prepared on November 2 in Foggia, Barletta, Bitonto, and Bisceglie, made with cooked wheat, raisins, chopped walnuts, and almonds, chopped dried figs, dark chocolate chips, pomegranate seeds, sugar, and vincotto. It originates from the cities of Magna Grecia.

Dolci dei morti – Dead people sweets is a Regional Recipe from Emilia-Romagna, Lazio, Lombardy, Marche, Sicily, and Umbria

Enrico Massetti was born in Milan, Italy.
Now he lives in Washington, DC, USA.
Still, he regularly visits his hometown
and enjoys going around all the places in his home country
especially those he can reach by public transportation.

Enrico loves writing guide books on travel in Italy
to help his friends that go to Italy to visit
and enjoy his old home country.
He also publishes books on the Argentine tango dance.

You can reach Enrico at