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Rice Cultivation in Italy

It was probably Alexander the Great who, after conquering India, introduced rice to the western world, but it was only thanks to the Arabs that it became widespread in the Mediterranean basin and consequently in Italy, where it grew in popularity mostly in Piedmont and Lombardy, still the most famous regions for its production.

The North-East of Pavia: a noble land

 

The North-East of the Pavia province has very clear natural borders: it is that area of the Padana plain that is situated north of the Po river, between the outlet of the Ticino and the Sesia rivers.

This strip of land was a province of Piedmont up until 1859 with its capital in Mortara. The House of Savoy conquered Mortara in 1706 and only 37 years later did they arrive in Vigevano. Thanks to the House of Savoy, this area became the main centre for rice cropping. For almost 300 years, the territory has been crossed by a closely woven network of canals, together with the presence of large farmhouses which are still among the most famous rice production centres, as well as the most visible agricultural feature of the area.

The Piedmontese did not split the large properties and favoured "modern" farming expansion, often bringing in agronomists to work alongside landowners, to advise them how to better exploit the soil, the water and the microclimate.

Pavia Paddy Fields: a landscape constructed through centuries-old experience.

The countryside is flat, broken up by large red brick farmhouses, framed by rows of poplars. In spring, the flooding of the paddy fields reduces the roads to a lattice on a seemingly immense lake which, on clear days, mirrors the snow-capped Alps. Everything has been "built up", transformed and organised over centuries through man's infinite patience and skill. Otherwise, this land of water springs would have been a desolate swamp as in medieval times, but instead it became a place of agricultural experimentation ahead of its time. In the fifteenth century, a few precious sacks of rice from the Orient were given by the Marquis of Mantua to his cousin Ludovico il Moro and grown in the Pavia area. Since then, the best rice has been produced in this historic former province.

The paddy field par excellence

Perhaps due to the enlightened influence of the Piedmontese agronomists, this land is nowadays one of the most renowned rice-growing areas. It is not by chance that the Centro Ricerche dell'Ente Nazionale Risi (the National Rice Research Centre) is based here. For decades, its experts have been selecting the best varieties of rice, to ensure that it provides excellent nutritional and organoleptic properties while retaining its firmness in cooking.

The origins of the most famous Italian rice in the world

Today, "risotto" is undeniably among the best-loved "Made in Italy" dishes throughout the world. Every prestigious restaurant has its own risotto dish. Chefs demand only Italian rice for their masterpieces, preferably Arborio, Carnaroli and Vialone Nano which, among the approx. 50 varieties grown in Italy, are the most noble and guarantee successful and original dishes.

Pavia: the capital of rice

Today Pavia is already considered the "rice capital", thanks to its 78,000 hectares of paddy fields, making the largest rice-growing area in Italy.

The Pavia region is as famous for its rice as the Trentino region for its apples, Chianti and Langhe for their wines, Parma for the ham and cheese that bear its name, Liguria for oil and Turin for breadsticks and pralines.

The uniqueness of these products results from a special blend of air, water, nature and soil as well as man's centuries-old skill and ability to select best-quality products