A Very Rough History

Posted on Posted in History, Italian Food, Italian Life, Italy

Italy is a very varied nation, and you can throw a stone and hit a delicacy that is only created in that area. Our pastries and the food we sell at Dolci will be focused on the Romagna area, from the Emilia-Romagna region.

Cappalletti Ragu
Cappalletti Ragu

This area of Italy is very rich in culture and history. The Po River valley is the primary source of the rich soils which produce huge amounts of wheat and grain for the pasta’s and breads well known in Italy. During the Roman empire the area was (and still remains) very agricultural. It was also a cross roads to the north and on into Gaul. Julius Caesar stood with his armies just north of the Rubicon river (near Rimini) before charging down to Rome and forcing Pompey and the senate to flee into exile in Greece. Later, after the Emperors of Rome were established, Ravenna, Jackie’s home town, became the home of the Emperor himself, moving the seat of government out of the city of Rome.

Mosaic from King Teodora's palace in Ravenna
Mosaic from King Teodora’s palace in Ravenna

The Empire fell, and the Goths took control, maintaining Ravenna as their seat of power and home to the Goth King. A relationship of sorts was developed between Ravenna and the Byzantine empire, which before the fall of Rome, was the Eastern Roman Empire. The artwork and the Mosaics from that time are still on display in Ravenna today, and are a major part of the local tourism for the area.

Ravenna’s other major claim to fame is that it is the final resting place for the great Italian poet, writer and thinker Dante Alighieri. Alighieri is considered the father of modern Italian, as he was the first to codify the language and solidify what we know as Italian today.

Dante Alighieri
Dante Alighieri

After the fall of Rome, Latin changed and disappeared as a spoken language and hundreds of dialects developed. Some of those dialects, like Romagnola are still alive and spoken today in certain areas. However, Italian, as it is taught and spoken around the world has it’s roots with Dante Alighieri. You can visit his tomb in Ravenna.

 

As to the overall history of the area, it is a tale of rich families, like the Malatesta of Rimini and the Montefeltro fighting each other for control of greater areas of land. Slightly south of here is Urbino, a once powerful dukedom who was pushing north. The Pope and the papal

The Fort of San Leo
The Fort of San Leo

armies wanted the area for it’s history, it’s link to the emperors of old, and its food production, and so between the Pope, and the rich families that inhabited the area from the 1300’s there are many beautiful old hilltop forts and villages. Forts were built in strategic locations, and towns and villages developed to support those structures. One such example is the beautiful medieval village of San Leo. You can visit the fort, first built by the Montefeltros, and then fought over by the Medici and Rovere families, but finally coming under the control of the Papal States in 1631.

There are too many forts, and too much history to put even a percentage of it down here, but suffice it to say that this is an area with a RICH cultural history, and that is reflected in it’s food, and it’s pastries. The Emilia-Romagna region is well worth a visit for any foodies, or history buffs.