Alternative namesPanettone valtellinese, pan di fich
TypeSweet bread
Place of originItaly
Region or stateLombardy
Serving temperatureRoom temperature
Main ingredientsBuckwheat flour, figs, honey, raisins, and walnuts

Bisciola (Italian: [biʃˈʃɔ]) is an artisanal Italian sweet leavened bread originating from the Valtellina valley of Lombardy, Italy.[1]: 63  It is typically prepared for Christmas[1]: 63  during which time it is an essential component of Christmas festivities.[2]

It is also known as panettone valtellinese,[3]: 732  besciola, and pan di fich[4], the latter a name in the local dialect literally translating as fig bread.


The term bisciola likely derives from the Latin buccella (lit.'morsel').[5]

A legend states that in 1797, Napoleon was passing through the region and ordered his cook to prepare a sweet using local ingredients.[5] The cook obtained buckwheat flour, butter, dried figs, grapes, honey, and nuts, and created what came to be known as bisciola.[5] According to La cucina Italiana, Napoleon was never in Valtellina.[5]

Since bisciola was traditionally a peasant food, its original recipe was never recorded and is likely an "ancient cake recipe".[5]


The bread has been described as having a rustic appearance and likened to a more traditional panettone.[6] It is a tasty, firm and crunchy loaf with pleasant scent.[2][7] Like similar sweet breads from Italy, including colomba pasquale, pandolce, pandoro, and panettone, the final prepared bisciola has a humidity ranging from 18% to 24%.[8]: 547 

It is traditionally served after pranzo (lunch) or Christmas dinner, either at room temperature or slightly warmed.[2] Outside of meals, it may be eaten per custom after dipping it in grappa, or also with coffee.[2] It may also be served with zabaione.[2]


The bread requires a natural sourdough to prepare. The flour used is any of rye flour, type 00 wheat flour, or whole-wheat flour.[2] Artisanal versions are made using buckwheat flour.[9]: 112  The dough is additionally composed of butter, milk, sugar, and yeast.[2] Ingredients added to the dough mixture include dried figs, honey, raisins, and walnuts.[2] Some versions may substitute one or more of those ingredients with hazelnuts, pine nuts,[5] almonds, or dried apricots.[2]

The process requires from 20 to 36 hours to obtain the full sourdough;[8]: 550  a mother dough (also known as a starter) is mixed with the flour and water, then set aside to leaven for up to 6 hours.[8]: 551  To this is then added more flour and water and is again set aside to leaven for 3–4 hours.[8]: 551  In the final sourdough stage, more flour and water are added, and a small portion set aside to leaven 18–36 hours.[8]: 551  This is the new mother dough, and the rest is divided into smaller portions and used to prepare bisciola.[8]: 551  To the mix of each portion is added dried figs, raisins, and walnuts, all of which have been cut into pieces, and are thoroughly integrated into the dough, after which it is set aside to leaven for about an hour.[4] It is then shaped into a loaf, given an egg wash, and baked for 40–50 minutes.[4]

Geographic mark

On 7 June 2013, the bread was granted a Marchio Collettivo Geografico, an unregistered geographic trademark, after a workgroup consisting of the Chamber of Commerce of Sondrio and various producers in the region[10] established the characteristics of the bread, constituent ingredients, acceptable local substitutes, and conditions for use of the term bisciola.[11]: 1–2  It also specified the Regolamento d’uso del Marchio Collettivo "Bisciola", which states the licensing terms for the use of the term bisciola.[12]: 1 

The control plan defined by the group specifies that the producer is responsible for guaranteeing the region of production (always within Sondrio), ingredients employed in production, the means of production, the process of kneading the dough, the shape into which it is formed, and the baking process.[13]: 1–2  The packager must ensure that the product is sourced from and packaged in Sondrio, ensure that the baked product conforms to the defined standards and characteristics, verify the presence of required ingredients, and apply labelling identifying the product's source and indicating that it conforms to the Regolamento d’uso del Marchio Collettivo "Bisciola".[13]: 2–3 

See also


  1. ^ a b Lo Russo, Giuseppe (2004). Dolce Natale (in Italian). Fratelli Alinari. ISBN 88-7292-473-1.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Gallo, Genny. "Bisciola: la ricetta del dolce tipico valtellinese" [Bisciola: recipe for the traditional sweet of Valtellina]. Cookist (in Italian). Retrieved 17 December 2021.
  3. ^ Schweickard, Wolfgang (31 July 2013). Deonomasticon Italicum (in Italian). Vol. 4: Derivati da nomi geografici (R-Z). De Gruyter. ISBN 9783110281415.
  4. ^ a b c Mazzanti, Andrea (2013). La cucina regionale italiana [Regional cuisine of Italy] (in Italian). Mazzanti Libri. ISBN 9788898109043.
  5. ^ a b c d e f "Pandolce and bisciola: two (lesser-known) Italian Christmas sweets". La cucina Italiana. Condé Nast. 25 December 2020. Retrieved 16 December 2021.
  6. ^ Farrauto, Luigi; Garofalo, Mauro; Bassi, Giacomo (2015). Milano e Lombardia (in Italian). Lonely Planet. ISBN 9788859208037.
  7. ^ Giordano, Antonella (2021). Natale nei dialetti e nelle tradizioni tra sacro e profano (in Italian). Ali Ribelli Edizioni. ISBN 9788833468198.
  8. ^ a b c d e f Pagani, M.A.; Lucisano, M.; Mariotti, M. (2006). "Italian bakery". In Hui, Y.H. (ed.). Bakery products: Science and technology. Blackwell Publishing. pp. 527–560. ISBN 978-0-8138-0187-2.
  9. ^ Le cucine della memoria. Le cucine della memoria. Vol. 1. De Luca. 1995. ISBN 8880161423.
  10. ^ Riva, Maura (14 November 2015). "La bisciola della Valtellina, un dolce della tradizione" (in Italian). NeveItalia. Retrieved 16 December 2021.
  11. ^ "Bisciola – disciplinare di produzione" (PDF) (in Italian). Camera di Commercio Industria Artigianato Agricoltura di Sondrio. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 December 2021. Retrieved 16 December 2021.
  12. ^ "Regolamento d'uso del Marchio Collettivo "Bisciola"" (PDF) (in Italian). Camera di Commercio Industria Artigianato Agricoltura di Sondrio. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 December 2021. Retrieved 16 December 2021.
  13. ^ a b "Piano dei controlli "Bisciola"" (PDF) (in Italian). Camera di Commercio Industria Artigianato Agricoltura di Sondrio. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 December 2021. Retrieved 16 December 2021.

Further reading