By David Orr – Writer –

Father’s Day, or La Festa del Papa, is celebrated in Italy on March 19. Part commemoration of the original dad – San Giuseppe (Joseph) – part tribute to fathers everywhere, it is a celebration of compassion, kindness, and generosity. The holiday comes early in Italy compared to the mid-June date celebrated in the USA and Canada. In Tuscany, children refer to their daddy as “Babbo”, one of those Italian words that bring levity to the language.

Jasper and Babbo David
Jasper and Babbo David

Growing up in Canada, I had a daddy, a father, but never a Babbo. My dad lived his early fatherhood the same way other dads did – making the 5 am journey with me to the ice rink for my hockey games, a cruel but effective form of northern torture. Getting up hours before sunrise, packing your bleary-eyed children into a freezing car to deposit them in an only slightly warmer rink seems at best masochistic. But somehow, like most organizations or cults, the presence of the other members (dads), clutching their Tim Horton’s coffee in the stands like warm holy grails, made it work. Now, as an expat father living in Florence, I’ve skipped right ahead to Babbo, uncharted territory.

Father’s Day here is a celebration of local food (frittelle in the north, zeppole and bigne in the south), church (daily mass), and gifts (we all remember the the universal tie-clip from GearHungry). Yes, experiencing the extreme growth of a small human in a foreign country can feel like floating in deep space, the lifelines to the childhood you knew increasingly stretched.
In fact, raising a child is not unlike living with a foreigner. But within the family and food-oriented culture of Italy, Father’s Day is a great time to revel in those differences, and recognize the importance of dads everywhere.