Held annually on March 8, International Women’s Day was first recognised in Italy in 1922.
In 1946, after World War II came to an end, the Festa della Donna was celebrated all over the country.
For decades, the mimosa flower has been the unofficial symbol for this day in Italy.
The fluffy yellow shrub blossoms in Italy in early March.
Come March 8, you will hardly find an Italian family without a few sprigs of mimosa in their home.
Fathers, sons, husbands and boyfriends gift women with these yellow flowers on the day as a sign of love and appreciation, while vendors can be found on every corner selling them.
Nowadays, women also hand the flowers to other women as an expression of solidarity.
It’s not unheard of for the woman sitting behind the counter of the local post office or on the supermarket checkout to be given sprigs of mimosa by female customers as a sign of respect.
But how did the floral emblem of Australia – two different species of wattle enjoy top billing on our coat of arms and the $5 bill – come to pepper the Italian landscape?
There are almost 1000 varieties of wattle in Australia, growing wild in all sorts of climates.
It first ventured outside Australia when seeds were transported to England from 1780 on, and cultivated in the Royal Botanic Gardens in the south-west London suburb of Kew.
Ornamental varieties later sent to the south of France and the great palazzos of Rome proved to be popular.
It’s not only wattle which symbolises International Women’s Day in Italy: the flower also inspires a cake which is baked and enjoyed on the day.
The torta mimosa is made from pan di Spagna or sponge cake and topped with panna montata (whipped cream) and crema pasticciera (pastry cream).
Its yellow hue and fluffy texture are reminiscent of the bright blossoms that symbolise this important day for women in Italy.
But why the mimosa?
Unlike other flowers traditionally given to women – like roses and lilies – a spray of wattle can be divided up almost infinitely and still be whole, symbolising the many parts of every woman that she gives to others.
In addition, while wattle looks delicate it’s extremely strong and resilient – much like the women it’s gifted to!