The Strega Literary Prize (Premio Strega) in Italy…

Perhaps because my great-grandmother Maddalena was an Abruzzese village witch, there is something that appeals to me immensely that Italy’s most prestigious national literary prize, the Premio Strega is named ‘the witch prize’. In 1944 , Maria and Goffredo Bellonci began hosting, at their house in Rome, Sunday gatherings of writers and artists that became known as the Amici della Domenica, or ‘Sunday Friends’. This resulted in 1947 the Belloncis, together with Guido Alberti, owner of the Strega liqueur business, inaugurating a prize for fiction, the winner being chosen by the Sunday friends.

Winners include Italian writers such as Umberto Eco in 1981 for Il nome della rosa {In the Name of the Rose} and Giuseppe di Lampedusa posthumously in 1959 for Il gattopardo {The Leopard} – one of my favourite books.

Liquore Strega has been distilled since 1860 in the town of Benevento, located roughly between Rome and Naples, the place where witches from all over the world gathered (and still do at a certain time of year). There is an old legend, still very much alive, that this drink was a love potion witches created to forever unite couples who drank it. Strega liqueur continues to be tied to the sorcery of its origins. Some modern covens use the liqueur in their rites, burning it in bowls for various purposes.

More in Mezza Italiana in the chapters ~ The Village Witch p.137 and Witches’ Brew p.299.

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Filed under books + writing, inspiration, italy

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