The history of the fritole, a sweet that characterises the Carnival of Venice 

4 March 2022

This year, on the occasion of the city’s 1600 years celebrations, the Carnival of Venice will be celebrated from February 12th to March 1st. Many are the typical sweets produced in this period, such as the galani, castagnole, fried cream and the undisputed queen of the Carnival of Venice: the frittella. The fritola (pronounced as fritoea in venetian dialect) is produced according to the original recipe, which has been the same for centuries now. The original recipe, which is guarded at the National Casanatense Library in Rome, includes a dough made with eggs, flour, sugar, lemon, and raisin. Once the dough is ready, it must be fried, later filled with creams and, eventually, decorated with icing sugar. 

Through the years, this recipe has been modified several times and today, when Carnival comes, people can find the original fritole filled with cream, raisins, chocolate, and pistachios in every bakery of the city. 

The origin of the fritole dates back to the ‘600s when an association of 70 fritoleri (people who produced the fritole) was established in the city. The association included anyone who produced these typical sweets in tiny kiosks all around the city. The people who joined this association gathered in the church of the Maddalena, which still exists and is located close to Cà d’Oro. According to the strict legislation, they could carry out their job in a specific area of the city. Moreover, they had to pass the knowledge and the secrets of this job to their children, to maintain the tradition, otherwise a successor was nominated by Gastaldo, the head of the arts and crafts. 

The fritoleri were easily recognisable since they used to wear a traditional white apron and used to carry a pitted jar that they used as a tool to decorate the fritole. These masters of the bakery were experts in producing the fritole, and they used to bake their products on wooden tables on which they blended together several ingredients, such as flour, eggs, almonds, pine nuts and candied cedar. Then, they used to fry the dough with oil or butter and, eventually, used to display their product on dishes. The fritoleri were great masters of bakery and sales. In fact, to demonstrate the great quality and freshness of their products, they used to show the ingredients used, adding sugar to the freshly made fritole and inviting people to try them with theatrical gestures. Originally, the fritole were pierced in a wooden stick, in order to eat them without getting burnt. 

The real turning point in the history of the fritole came in the XVIII century, when they were declared as the “Dolce Nazionale dello Stato Veneto” (National Sweet of the Veneto State). From this moment on, the fritole became very popular also in the nearby regions, and the custom to eat them during the Carnival period spread. Today, the frittellais a sweet prepared in Northern Italy. 

The success of the fritole was also triggered by their representation in several works of art, as in the 1750 “La venditrice di fritole” by Pietro Longhi, guarded inside Ca’ Rezzonico, the Museum the Museum of 18th-century, or by the theatrical masterpiece by Carlo Goldoni, “Il Campiello”. 

Nevertheless, during Carnival time, venetian bakeries doesn’t only produce the fritole, but also other sweets such as the galani, the venetian name for the most common one as chiacchiere, with a triangular shape and a dough made with flour, butter, sugar, eggs and a tiny bit of alcohol and the castagnole, which according to the original recipe that dates back to the ‘600s, are prepared by putting together sugar, eggs, flour, cream and water. Then, tiny little balls are created, which will eventually be fried and decorated with sugar.