RICE IS LIFE
  All about rice
ItalyRice around the world

Italy is the largest rice producer in Europe, and the Lombardy and Piedmont regions are Italy's rice bowl. Rice production in Italy started around the middle of the 15th Century. Today, japonica rice varieties are planted under irrigated conditions in large and highly mechanized farms. Rice is grown from April to October.

Leonardo da Vinci is known for his contribution to the building of channels to drain the marshlands of the Po river plains. Camillo Cavour championed the construction in the late 19th Century of a canal that brought water from the Po River and Lake Maggiore to support the production of rice and other crops in Vercelli-Alessandria, Pavia and Novara. The canal is now called Cavour Canal.

The Italians do not eat much rice (about 8.5 kg/person in 2000), but Italy is famous for its risotto and a number of rice varieties have been developed for this purpose, especially Arborio and Carnaroli. The Italians have a saying "Rice is born in water but dies in wine". The artist Giovanni Pascoli composed a poem about a rice dish, and he also wrote an aria about rice in his famous opera Tancredi.

The most famous Italian yellow rice dish is Risotto alla Milanese. According to tradition, the dish was concocted during the construction of the famous Milan cathedral at the beginning of 16th Century. Saffron was introduced to colour the stained glass windows of the cathedral, and was added to a risotto dish only as a joke.