“Miele” in Italian, honey is vastly popular throughout Italy. Especially in tea, desserts, and pairing with assorted cheeses and fruits, one can find honey on the table from the antipasti, to dessert. Flavors and production can vary greatly within the 20 regions of Italy – but we can assure you that all are delicious. Italian honey bees are known world-wide as cultivaters of the best quality and most flavorable honey one can find.
It is thought that beekeeping in Italy began with the first Greek settlers in southern Italy in 700 to 800 B.C., but it was not until much later that, that it is documented by writers and scholars of the time. Marcus Terentius Varro (116 BC – 27 BC), wrote of bee farming in the third volume of his famous, “De Re Rustica” (On Agriculture) and Publius Vergilius Maro (70 BC–19 BC), in the fourth volume of the poem, “Georgics” (To Farm). Varro writes authoritatively of beekeeping practices such as placement and construction of the hives, good honey plants and the business opportunity of apiaries, yet he waxes poetic too as he describes bees as; ‘the winged attendants of the Muses,’ because if at any time they are scattered they are quickly brought into one place by the beating of cymbals or the clapping of hands; and as man has assigned to those divinities Helicon and Olympus, so nature has assigned to the bees the flowering untilled mountain.
Vergilius speaks highly of the home life of bees, their valiant defense of, and loyalty to their leader. He concludes by describing a method of creating bees from the body of a dead ox. This may sound primitive, but this was an example of the idea of spontaneous generation that dominated thinking for almost two millennia until it was ultimately disproved in the 19th Century by the experiments of Louis Pasteur.
Paradoxically, while Italy offers a wide selection of regionally produced honeys with over 40 monofloral varieties, Italians are not large consumers of honey, with per capita consumption of only .9 pounds (400 grams) per year. This is well below values of other European countries such as Austria and Greece at 3.2 lbs per capita (1,600 g.) and Germany over 2.6 lbs per captia (1,200 g.).
Strawberry-tree, thorn, ivy; rare as Barena honey, fruit of the Venetian lagoon and the small flowers that appear when the tide retreats, or more widespread such as sunflower. Italy boasts an unbeatable record: 51 varieties, all surveyed by the Ministry of Agriculture, compared with only 10 to 15 other countries. Produced throughout the boot, including the islands, but especially in the northern and central regions, particularly Emilia Romagna, Lombardy, Veneto and Piedmont. Less than in the south, despite the enviable climate. Blame the smaller presence of beekeepers.
There are approximately 72,000 beekeepers in Italy, of which about 10% are professional. The average annual production of honey is approximately 9,000 – 12,000 tons (8,000 – 11,000 metric tons).
All Italian Honeys
Italy produces an astonishing number of single flower (monofloral) and wildflower “millifiori” honeys. Single flower honeys, with sensory characteristics derived mainly from one type of plant, while both wildflower honeys and single flower honeys. The flavors of wildflower honeys from Italy and to a lessor extent, single flower honeys, are the result of the mix of blossoms of a region during a particular season. Consequently, like wine, these honeys are completely unique to that place and season. Most are produced every year while others are less regular and highly subject to weather conditions.
To purchase products featuring Italian Honey, head over to Italia Regina!