The history of Piadina: the street food of Romagna

The history of Piadina Romagnola has ancient origins and tells us the tradition and the bond with its territory, Emilia-Romagna. Its roots come from afar. The Etruscans were pioneers in cereal cultivation. Some evidence indicate that the Etruscans were used to preparing a substitute for bread made of coarse flour, cereals, and it used to have a circular shape, similar to the actual Piadina. The rudimentary Piadine continued to be produced even in Ancient Rome, becoming a fundamental element of the banquets of the upper classes and religious ceremonies.

The tradition of Piadina continued throughout the centuries, finding its development in the Middle Ages, when the inhabitants of Romagna started to use it with poor cereals to avoid the taxation to which wheat – and consequentially bread - were subjected to by landowners.

During the plague, around the 1300’s, the peasant class no longer had the economical possibility to eat leavened bread. They consumed polenta, barley flour, and piadina without yeast, which were produced with less valuable cereals, dried legumes and acorns to make it more nutritional and satiating.

The first known historical document about "Piada" dates back to this period (1371). The term was found in the description of Romagna compiled by Cardinal Angelico. Among the tributes that the city of Modigliana had to pay to the Apostolic Chamber, there were 2 "Piade."

The arrival of the Renaissance saw the flourishing of the courts and of the culinary art necessary to delight the palates of the vast noble banquets. The great chefs of the history were formed, such as Cristoforo di Messisbugo who made the cuisine of the Este family in Ferrara famous and who, together with the diffusion of wheat cultivation and bread leavening, for centuries relegated the preparation of Piada to moments of famine and for the poorest social classes.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the Piada had a great revival, thanks to corn flour mixed with wheat flour, which made possible to obtain excellent results at low costs.

When little girls were five or six years learned how to roll out the dough and cook the fragrant Piadina in the oven, stuffing it with traditional homemade salami, grilled sausages, boiled cabbage seasoned with oil, garlic and rosemary, or coppa di testa.

The Piadina began to conquer the tourists who were coming to Romagna in the 40s and the 50s. That was when the first kiosks appeared along the roads leading to the sea and to the holiday resorts, and they became a distinctive element of the gastronomic culture of Romagna. The Piadina became then a real street food.

The Piada has now become famous in Italy and abroad and it has begun to be identified with the land of Emilia Romagna, with the holiday breaks spent by the sea and it has remained an iconic food from La dolce vita era.

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