In the second part of our look into Italy’s best vacation spots and tours we are going to go over Campania and Lombardy. Experiencing the best they have to offer begins with what we covered last time, realizing that within each of the 20 regions of Italy food and culture widely varies. Throughout history Italy has been united, invaded, united, divided into city-states and united again. But each of these events only further advanced the variations in culture and influences.
Campania, located on the south-west coast, is a perfect example of the way that Italy’s cultural experience has been evolved by the plurality of external forces. Campania was originally settled by the Greeks, followed by being populated by the Romans, Samnites and Etruscans. This region is also uniquely influenced by a Norman Invasion in the 11th Century (that didn’t last forever) that gave them a unique influx of fresh ideas. This was ended when they joined the Two Kingdoms of Sicily. The ruins of the city of Pompeii lie in the valleys of Campania. But like a phoenix, the ashes from the mountain created an unforeseen consequence. The ash and burned plant life created the conditions for very fertile soil, giving life to a huge produce industry.
The Greeks gave them interest in seafood, and use of honey and nuts. The use of vegetables and grains translate into a huge interest in pasta and pizza. More so than other regions, the pizza made here has a large spread of herbs, veggies and seafood. The mountains also create a difference even within the region itself. Mountains cause rainfall to be more likely in certain areas, and far less in others. But what it does mean is that the produce has a wide range of offerings.
Lombardy, located on the northern border of Italy, stands apart from other areas. It is a great source of unique recipes. It is commonly considered to have very little in common with other regions, especially those near the sea near Central and Southern Italy. There is far less produce grown in the region, meaning no tomatoes or olives. They rely heavily on ranching and more hardy vegetables, as the wide open grasslands are great for feeding and produce growth. The preferred animals are pigs and cows, compared to goats that others use. The vegetables are normally maize (corn, which was brought from the New World) and rice.
The cows and pigs are used for their meat, as well as lard, butter and milk. In fact, it is because of this it has far more in common with Austria’s rural regions, Spain, and Central Europe in general. Regions like this are what makes the cuisine so great, the differences don’t stay there, but influence slightly all other regions. Every Lombardian knows risotto(rice), polenta(cornbread), and desserts that heavily rely on fruits. These include panettone and mostarda di frutta. Panettone is candied fruits, flour and raisins, while mostarda is essentially a fruit mix with a flavored syrup that uses mustard (which really highlights how unique their food is that this is something they consider a delicacy).