Honey in Italy: A Transient Introduction


Similar to advantageous wine, Italian honey has centuries of custom behind it.

There are greater than 300 forms of honey in the marketplace in Italy with totally different colors and flavours relying on the crops from which the bees draw nectar. 

The most typical is millefiori honey, however there are additionally quite a few kinds of mono-floral honey. 

How to decide on? Among the many most generally utilized in Italian cooking is acacia honey, which has a fragile style and is probably the most appropriate if you don’t want to cowl different flavours. 

Lime honey, very candy and fragrant, is nice for desserts. 

Chestnut honey and strawberry tree honey, however, are slightly bitter and go properly with important programs of meat, charcuterie boards and cheeses.

Now that now we have your mouth watering, let’s dive into Italy’s lengthy historical past with honey, how the U.S. appears to be like to Italian bees for preserving the species, and what to search for when searching for one of the best honey in Italy.

The historical past of honey in Italy

There are quite a few archaeological finds of man’s love of bees and honey from Greek and Roman occasions.

Thriving in a very industrious approach, with the queen at its head, bees represent an ideal image to symbolize kingship (consider the Barberini Bees of the highly effective aristocratic household).

In historical Rome, bee merchandise had been extensively used and several other testimonies spotlight the assorted facets of beekeeping: the gathering of honeycomb from the cavity of a tree in an allegorical portray, or the levels of breeding with spherical beehives in proof within the sepulchral reduction of noblemen Titus Paconius Caledus and his spouse Octavia Salvia (1st century B.C.).

Bee reliefs inside medieval Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome

Locations well-known for his or her bee manufacturing lined the Mediterranean coasts and included primarily Greece, Egypt, and Sicily. 

In Sicily, the primary documented information of beekeeping date again to the time of the Magna Graecia. Theocritus, in 300 B.C., extolled the honey and bees of the area Ibla. 

In Ibla, beekeeping was actually essential even earlier than the Greek invasion, and it was particularly so within the space of Pantalica the place, from 1250 to 700 B.C., in accordance with historians, there was the capital of the Sicilian state of the legendary Hyblon king of the bee individuals.

The Sicilians took from the Greeks and made the bee an object of worship.  The parable of Aristeus, son of Apollo and Cyrene, who, having discovered from the nymphs the artwork of elevating bees, cultivating vines, olive timber and making cheese, unfold his data all through Greece and Italy. 

The parable of Aristeus can be current in Sardinia; the invention of a bronze statuette depicting a person along with his physique coated with bees, a hero who taught Sardinians the cultivation of olives and vines, milk processing and beekeeping, dates again to 1843.

In Sicily, the Iblaean beekeepers proceeded to reap with out killing the bees, because of the actual construction of the hive that allowed them to open and extract the combs with honey whereas leaving the nucleus intact; equally, in Sardinia, the hives had been “emptied” earlier than taking the combs with honey. 

Within the Sardinian custom, honey extraction was carried out by squeezing the combs by hand or by urgent. Urgent the combs was the method utilized by Sicilian beekeepers, and the ensuing honey was a lot richer in pollen than honey.  

With such a method, appreciable portions of wax had been obtained, which had been put to varied makes use of: candles, cosmetics, and inventive crafts.

In Sicilian custom, wax remnants filled with honey and pollen had been crumbled in sizzling water and left to ferment, acquiring alcohol. Certainly one of its makes use of was to provide a liquor with thyme honey, a drink talked about by some historical Roman authors as a beverage meant for the wealthy. 

Human intervention with bees has lengthy been practiced; as early as Pliny reported on the transport of beehives alongside the Po River on boats. 

Till the start of the final century, in Calabria, ladies might be seen in teams carrying hives on their heads at night time. In Sicily, the motion of bees was entrusted to mules.

U.S. beekeepers come to Italy to enhance genetics

Bee scientists in the US have been coming to Italy to enhance the genetic variability of their bee populations.

One of many causes of excessive bee mortality in the US, in accordance with a Washington State College analysis group, is the genetic variability of honey bees is being depleted. This has left them in need of genetic traits that would assist them resist varroa, a standard illness amongst bees.

Susan Cobey, a geneticist in WSU’s entomology division and queen bee breeder, explains why: “Honey bees are usually not native to the American continent, we introduced them right here, however in 1922 the U.S. closed its borders to bee imports to stop the unfold of Acarapis woodi (the small trachea mite that did a lot injury a number of years earlier within the U.Ok.) and since then our bee populations have been interbreeding with one another.”

And that’s the reason Susan Cobey and a few of her collaborators have been touring throughout Europe and Asia since 2008 to gather sperm from the drones of native bees in Italy, Slovenia, Germany, Kazakhstan and the Republic of Georgia-countries the place honeybees have favorable genetic traits, akin to resistance to varroa mites.

Beekeeper and honey manufacturing on a nature reserve in Modena, Italy

Italian beekeepers have develop into more and more conscious of the dangers of dissipating variability in bee species even in Italy, and have undertaken nice efforts to stop the extinction of assorted sub- species.

The Greatest Honey in Italy

Whether or not you just like the basic millefiori, acacia, chestnut, eucalyptus, linden or honeydew, it would not matter, Italy is wealthy in high quality honey with particular traits.

Many Italian beekeepers are engaged in honey manufacturing. However that are one of the best honeys? 

The Tre Gocce d’Oro Competitors, a contest among the many finest honeys in Italy organized by the Nationwide Honey Observatory, held in September on the outskirts of Bologna, is now in its forty second version. 


A set of vibrant bee hives, lively with bees gathering honey, in Sicily, Italy

The competition celebrates one of the best of Italian honey, with varieties that inform the story of Italy’s biodiversity. The competitors is damaged into classes:

– The Thousand Honeys, the Millefiori

– The honeys from natural beekeeping

– The Nice honeys of Sicily

– The Nice honeys of Puglia

– The Nice honeys of Abruzzo

– Sluggish honeys

When you’ve got the possibility to strive any of the above, probably the greatest methods is with a slice of pecorino cheese to distinction the sweetness and convey out the flavour. Right here is the checklist of winners from 2021.

What makes one honey higher than one other? 

The perfect honey merchandise are from Italy’s second largest area, Piedmont, and the second smallest, Molise. Tuscany, Sardinia, Abruzzo and Puglia are additionally filled with prized honeys.

While you’re searching for honey in an Italian grocery store make sure to verify the label for the place it comes from. 

Lately, Italian honey producers have sounded the alarm over what they name “false honey” imported from China. It’s a product created in a lab, with the addition of sugar syrup and with manufacturing strategies that don’t adjust to European requirements.

We encourage you to purchase honey produced by small native corporations in specialty shops or at native markets. Or purchase it straight from the producers.

Signal promoting selfmade cheese and honey in Italy

Most Italian beekeeping corporations have their very own website with a bit for on-line buying.

Do not be misled by particular provides: honey should be paid an acceptable worth that can’t fall, for instance for a millefiori, beneath 10 euros per kg.

Honey manufacturing in Italy immediately

Local weather change is making life very troublesome for bees and likewise for many who have chosen to lift them professionally, however bees in Italy are producing numerous honey this yr.

The president of the Biella Beekeepers Affiliation, Paolo Detoma, mentioned, “This might be probably the greatest years for honey. The frosts that we feared would possibly come within the spring haven’t occurred, and the flowering is completely regular: we could have a wonderful product.”

Aside from local weather change, one downside dealing with Italian honey provide is an absence of area not contaminated by industrial agriculture. 

An modern plan has inspired the proliferation of city beehives even on metropolis rooftops. In Turin, 120,000 bees have been positioned within the metropolis as “sentinels of the surroundings” and can produce 20 kilos of honey. 

What is definite, nevertheless, is that the demand for honey is there and can be rising.  In Italy there was a rediscovery of honey as a meals for use within the kitchen not just for breakfast but in addition for the preparation of different meals.


Subsequent Christmas, head to Naples for some honey- soaked Struffoli and also you’ll get an thought of precisely how Italians make honey a star ingredient of their cooking.

Selfmade candy Italian Struffoli with honey and sprinkles

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