Italian Festa della Donna and International Women’s Day

Kathryn Occhipinti, MD
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD for Conversational Italian for Travelers books

While researching “La Festa della Donna,” which takes place on International Women’s Day every March 8, I came across a bit of history about the origins of this special day for women. Although the holiday in Italy today is a lovely early springtime celebration, made complete with bright yellow mimosa flowers and a light, airy yellow cake, the origins are a bit more serious. I thought I would share what I have learned about the origins of the day in this blog.

Read on after the short history of International Women’s Day for a brief description of how Festa della Donna is celebrated in Italy today and how to make a mimosa cake for the special women in your family.


Since the turn of the century in the 1900s, a history had already developed of commemorating “the woman” with “women’s days.” On these days, women held special gatherings and marches, usually in an attempt to bring women’s and children’s rights to the forefront.

An excerpt from an article titled “International Women’s Day History” from the University of Chicago describes how these early “days of the woman” turned into a celebration of women around the world, now called “International Women’s Day”:

In 1975… the United Nations (UN) began celebrating International Women’s Day on March 8. Only two years later, in December 1977 the General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming a “United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace to be observed on any day of the year by Member States, in accordance with their historical and national traditions.

Click on the link that leads to a summary about International Women’s Day History from the University of Chicago if you would like a more detailed description.



La Festa della Donna

Il 8 di Marzo

In Italy, mimosa flowers are in bloom in central Italy on March 8 and were chosen as the symbol of this holiday by the Italian Women’s Association. Mothers, wives, sisters, and teachers can expect to receive small bouquets of these flowers from the men in their lives. Also, in most Italian cities, the Italian government grants free entrance for women to museums, and galleries may even host special exhibitions about women in history or dedicated to female artists. In the evenings, many restaurants offer special discounts for women, many who dress in yellow for the occasion and go out to celebrate with their families or significant other.

Finally, no celebration is complete in Italy without a special food to enjoy, and in this case, there is a special “mimosa cake”—a light, airy yellow sponge cake with a topping made to look like the small blooms of the mimosa flower. Most of the cakes I have seen are round, but I found a beautiful sheet cake version on YouTube that I’d like to share. It is from the Fatto in casa da Benedetta blog, and Benedetta has a book of recipes that has been available since last year (click on the link if you are interested in the book).

The cake is a bit complicated, and descriptions are in Italian, but the video gives clear directions. The end result is delicious and looks beautiful! I hope you enjoy!

From the cook:

Questa torta è dedicata a tutte le Donne
che ogni giorno rendono il mondo un posto migliore.

TORTA MIMOSA Ricetta Speciale Dedicata alle Donne – Italian Mimosa Cake Recipe

Special Mimosa Cake by Benedetta
Beautiful mimosa cake by Benedetta for La Festa della Donna in Italy. From her blog: Fatto in Casa da Benedetta, February 25, 2017

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