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A short history of pizza, from the Neolithic to the present day

Culture / -

Breve storia della pizza
© Clay McLachlan/Aurora Photos/Corbis

From disks of bread cooked on a stone in the inns of Naples, to the conquest of the whole world. A fascinating journey of the poor man’s food that has become increasingly rich in history, ingredients, flavors and glory.

Neolithic Times
Agriculture is born. In the Near East, men begin to cultivate selected plant species, emmer wheat and einkorn wheat, barley, legumes, and flax. Stone-baked polenta made of roasted and ground cereals or unleavened bread dates back to the Neolithic Age.

Ancient Egypt
The ancient Egyptians discover yeast. The raising of dough made from crushed or ground cereals, makes it softer, lighter, more tasty and digestible after cooking. The eating of bread increases.

Ancient Rome
Today’s wheat comes from the Roman variety through selections and hybrids of different types of barley of the time. The word "flour" is derived from "far,” its Latin name. Farmers knead the flour of wheat grains milled with water, herbs and salt, and then put this round cake to cook on the stove, in the heat of hot ashes. The Romans sometimes use disks of bread dishes for dipping in food sauces.

Seventh century
With the Lombards, arrives a Germanic word for Italian (Gothic, Lombard): "bizzo-pizzo", from the German "bizzen." It means bite. From bite-sized morsel, a piece of bread, until cake is a logical path that linguists call a common process of metaphorical metonymic, a synecdoche chain.

In medieval Latin Codex Cajetanus Gaeta is for the first time called "pizza" a cake. It happens again in 1195 in a document of Penne in the Abruzzo region.

In medieval Latin of the Roman Curia reads "in panatteria, Scilicet guindalis, pizis, Caseo, LIGNIS" in a text and the Eagle of the fourteenth century "pissas fladonem quatuor et unum" (the fladone is a typical bakery product Abruzzo and Molise ). A "piczas casey, bread pizzas de" appears in a document of Celano of 1387-88. Rained claims from half of Italy, to the "piza panis" cancelleresco in Pesaro in 1531.

In his description of the ancient sites of Naples, the poet and essayist Benedetto Di Falco says that the "bun in Naples is called pizza."

The traditional cake of wheat flour kneaded and seasoned with garlic, lard and salt continues to meet the wishes of the people of the South, olive oil takes the place of the lard, add the cheese, gather herbs. At the dawn of the seventeenth century makes its appearance a recipe from the majestic aroma of basil, pizza "to Mastunicola" (in dialect, the teacher Nicholas). From here on, the basil becomes the basic ingredient of pizza and privileged.

It is only in the second half of the 700 that finally spreads in Italy the use of a berry exotic, imported from the Americas: the tomato.

The pizza is very popular among the common people, but not too proud barons, princes and rulers: it offers the facilities of the Bourbons, and Ferdinand IV, the cook in the ovens of Capodimonte, the same from which come the precious ceramics.

The first recipe of pizza as we know it today is probably stated in a treaty was printed in Naples in 1858, which describes the way in those years preparing the "true Neapolitan pizza." When the city was still the capital of the kingdom of the Two Sicilies, Francesco De Bourcard in Customs of Naples and contours described and paintings he even mention a sort of forerunner pizza Margherita, with mozzarella and basil: "Other (pizzas) are covered with grated cheese and seasoned lard neck, and there arises over a few basil leaves. It adds thin slices of mozzarella. "The tomato is optional, "sometimes you do use," writes the author of Neapolitan Swiss origin. Among other things, for the dressing you can use "what pops into your head."

Here's the pizza, "who makes and sells pizzas in Naples" says the dictionary Zingaretti 1922. Ce submit Matilde Serao, the first woman founder of a newspaper in Italy, including the evidence gathered in Naples since then written with Edward Scarfoglio "The pizzaiuolo who shop in the night, it makes a large number of these dunks round a thick paste, which burns out, but does not cook, full of almost raw tomatoes, garlic, pepper, oregano." always here, the Serao talks about the first attempt to leave the country of pizza. Failed. "Someday, an industrial Neapolitan had an idea. knowing that pizza is one of the Neapolitan cucinarie adoration, knowing that the Neapolitan colony in Rome is very large, he thought to open a pizzeria in Rome ... at first I noticed the crowd, then went dwindling. pizza, Neapolitan taken to its environment, it seemed a jarring and represented indigestion, his star paled and waned, in Rome, exotic plant, died in this Roman feast. "

"A Federico II, Naples around, liked those coarse foods, of which the Neapolitans are greedy: the cod, the sauce, caponata, mozzarella, pizza," writes Raffaele De Cesare in the historical essay The end of a kingdom. In Modern Dictionary published by Hoepli in 1905, known guide to the wilderness of neologisms that time, Alfredo Panzini puts it this way: "Pizza: common name of a popular Neapolitan dish. It consists in a sort of custard or pastry flour leavened much. Sprinkled with tomatoes, cheese, anchovies, etc.., At will of the customer, mettesi the oven where it bakes and swollen then and there. "What brought a dish so low lineage to become a symbol of Italian famous throughout the world, a planet where you eat 5 billion pizzas each year, it's a magic. Made of bread, tomato, mozzarella and basil.

February 27, 1861, Rudolf Steiner, the father of biodynamic agriculture is born

Sustainability / -

Rudolf Steiner
© Adoc photos_Corbis

Thanks to Steiner, farms have been "redesigned" in a holistic fashion: no longer self-contained entities, but systems based on wide-reaching relationships, with the soil seen as a source of life, together with the earth and the cosmos.

Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) was an Austrian philosopher, an esoteric, a teacher, an artist and a social reformer. He is the founder of anthroposophy, a new conception of humanity and of the world that reinvigorated the fields of medicine, and of teaching, as well as art and science in general, acquiring many followers throughout the western world.
Steiner began his career in 1897 as a teacher and lecturer. During his career, which took him round the world, he gave more than 6,000 lectures and published 28 books on topics ranging from philosophy, medicine, and mathematics to physics and agriculture, as well as economics, education, and architecture. The lectures have been collected, along with his writings, and have been published in the 354 volumes that constitute his opera omnia.

The birth of biodynamic agriculture
One year before his death, he formulated the principles that underpin biodynamic agriculture. The year was 1924 and a group of important Anthroposophist landowners in eastern Germany had asked Steiner how they could revitalize their fields. They were concerned about the early signs of weakening in the soil, caused by modern approaches to farming, and in particular, by the increasing use of chemical fertilizers. Steiner decided to give them a series of lectures, the central theme being the need for healthy soil and the preservation and enhancement in fertility, the better to improve the quality of the output, food to feed humankind. These lectures were published in the volume entitled "Scientific and spiritual impulses for the progress of agriculture".
In his lectures, Steiner demonstrates how spiritual research leads to a completely new view of nature. Through the cooperation between the soil, water, sun, animal life and plant growth, it is possible to identify two formative forces: the terrestrial and the cosmic. In the plant world, the action of the ground forces can be seen in the growth and production of substances, while the action of the cosmic forces can be seen in ripening and fertilization. Steiner shows how in agriculture it is possible, up to a certain point, to stimulate, or possibly curb, those two quite different forces, which are polar opposites.

The biodynamic method considers each substance as a combination of matter and life force. As Steiner explained in his sixth lecture, given in June 1924:

[…] We must not merely look at the plant or animal or human world […] Life always proceeds from the entire Universe — not only out of what the Earth provides. […] Nature is a great totality; forces are working from everywhere.  […] What does science do nowadays? It takes a little plate and lays a preparation on it, carefully separates it off and peers into it, shutting off on every side whatever might be working into it. We call it a “microscope.” It is the very opposite of what we should do to gain a relationship to the wide spaces. No longer content to shut ourselves off in a room, we shut ourselves off in this microscope tube from all the glory of the world. Nothing must now remain but what we focus in our field of vision. […] We, however, must find our way out again into the macrocosm. Then we shall once more begin to understand Nature - and other things too.

Legacy and the present day
Adopted around the world starting in 1924 by farmers of all sizes and types, biodynamic agriculture takes its inspiration from the idea that a farm is a real organism living in a closed cycle, but is also part of the larger living cosmic organism, and is subject to its influence. For each farming activity, such as sowing, transplanting, and pruning, great importance is given to the cycles of the moon and planets, and farmers use a special calendar.
As well as reviving traditional practices, such as green manure and crop rotation, biodynamic agriculture is based on a series of "preparations", used in homeopathic doses, which function as “medicine” for the soil and plants. This results in a gradual rejuvenation of the soil, an increase in stable humus, and higher-quality output.
This knowledge can complement the official agricultural approach, helping to achieve greater growth, in a more ethical and aesthetic fashion, while promoting a new type of farmer, one who is more mindful and responsible.
Expo Milano 2015 provides an opportunity to learn about the importance of biodiversity on our planet. In particular, the Biodiversity Park, located within the Thematic Areas, highlights Italian excellence in the fields of agriculture, the environment, and food production, describing the evolution and preservation of agricultural biodiversity. A program of events, talks, and multi-media experiences completes the visitor experience.

Maurizio Riva. Pangea, the table that brings the whole world together at Expo Milano 2015

Sustainability / -

It sends out a powerful symbolic message, but is also the tangible materialization of rare artistic beauty, created using very valuable yet sustainable materials. The placing of Riva1920’s Pangea table right at the center of the Universal Exhibition, at the crossroads between the Cardo and the Decumano, gives Maurizio Riva the chance to explain the values it represents, the materials used and tell us some more interesting facts about it.

Pangea, the table designed by architect Michele De Lucchi and created by Riva 1920 for Expo Milano 2015, is on display in the wonderful and very central Piazza Italia area, at the crossroads between the Cardo and the Decumanus. The project was inspired by and takes its name from Pangaea, as the supercontinent was called, comprising all land above sea-level  250 million years ago, eventually drifting apart to give rise to the continents as we know them today.
The table top measures about 80 square meters and is made of kauri, a wood which is 48,000 years old and extracted from swamp subsoil in New Zealand. It weighs about 24,000-29,000 pounds and its making required the work of at least ten people for two months. The table is made up of 19 contoured pieces supported by 271 legs made from “briccole”, as the oak marker posts retrieved from the lagoon of Venice are called. The unusual feature of this wood is that it presents natural “lace patterns”, as it has been bored into by shipworms.
The advantage of reuse 
Reuse is a word which comes up again and again in this interview: “The wood dug up in New Zealand is being reused”, Maurizio Riva explained to us, “and the legs and supports come from poles which marked out the channels in the Venice lagoon: all the material is reused.  It was very important not to use any wood that required trees to be cut down”. Central to the realization of this project were the respect for the environment and the safeguarding of our arboreal heritage through their choice of wood, which have always been distinguishing traits of the company.
Pangea was used for the Bread Festival  at Expo Milano 2015, but what happens after the Universal Exhibition? “It will come back to Cantù”, Riva tells us, “where it was built, to be put in our museum. Anyone can come and see it, and can sit down on Brazil, or on Australia… And in front of it we will have a 1:5 scale model of Pavilion Zero”.

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