Italy’s own history of bread-making is long and rich. Etruscans, among the earliest Italians, adorned their elaborate tomb walls with banquet scenes that included the grinding of grains, some of which surely went into the making of an afterlife aquacotta – the ancient soup still eaten today, featuring a base of bread. And anyone who’s ever visited Pompeii has seen the remains of bakeries on almost every corner, most conveniently located near a wine vendor!
Bread continues to hold high rank in the culinary world of Italy. However, only six types have procured the coveted status of DOP (Denominazione di Origine Protetta) — meaning that a product is guaranteed via strict regulation to be artisan and made with locally grown ingredients, using traditional methods.
Meet pane Toscano DOP or pane sciocco. Rustic in appearance, with flour-dusted lines laid like a topography map across its domed exterior, a nutty colored crust the hue of a sun-bronzed face, and without salt.
Legend would have it that during one of the stand-offs between medieval Pisa and Florence, the Arno River was blockaded by the Pisan army, thus cutting off salt delivery to Florence. The Florentines smugly rolled their eyes and continued to bake their bread…senza sale!
Another explanation tells us that salt, a prized commodity during the Middle Ages for its ability to preserve foods, was taxed outrageously. The regular guy could not afford it, and thus – the daily bread was made without it.