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The Land of City States
THE CUISINE OF NORTHERN ITALY
A widespread increase in population occurred, boosting agricultural production, artisan manufacture, commerce in fairs and markets, and creating important new harbors such as Venice and Genoa.
A new political entity was being created: the Italian Comuni (The City States). The towns of northern and central Italy organized themselves into autonomous city republics, while the empire and the church had too little power to oppose them.
Banquet in the Giudecca, Venice 1755.
The wealth of the Italian signori of the Renaissance is legendary. Many books written during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries tell about the cooking in the courts of the nobility. Among the most famous are Opera […], by Bartolomeo Scappi (Venice, 1570), who was the cook for Pope Pius V in Rome; Banchetti […], by Cristoforo Messibugo (Ferrara, 1549), the cook for the Duke of Este. All of them have hundreds of recipes and describe the magnificence of the banquets.
Even under foreign influence, Italian cities never lost their identity. The mark left by the latest foreign occupations was either limited or fully integrated into local culinary traditions. At the same time, many unique food ingredients and original cooking techniques were developed and preserved in northern Italy, and they remain very popular all over the world today. A few examples include red radicchio from Treviso, balsamic vinegar from Modena, Parmigiano Reggiano from the Emilia region, prosciutto from Friuli, pesto from Liguria, tortellini from Bologna, and the list goes.
Every region developed particular qualities depending on its history and geographic location. The lands along the alpine arch all extend in part over the mountains and in part into the Po valley. Two main staples dominate in these areas. In the plain, rice dominates in the form of risotto, and everywhere else, maize dominates in the form of polenta.