Quality and Traditions
In the 13th century, with the Crusades and following the flourishing trade with the East, the Sienese were amongst the first to make these precious spices known in their homeland. Dante Alighieri in his “Divine Comedy” (Inferno XXIX 127-128) talks about Niccolò Salimbeni, a merchant of the time, who with a group of young lads gave life to the legend of the “brigata spendereccia” (spendthrift brigade), dedicated to refined oddities, often culinary. Salimbeni and his merry men are evidence of a Siena traditionally seen as a city dedicated to the pleasures of feasting, the “bello e nobile mangiamento” (the beautiful and nobile eating”). The well-known “Liber de coquina”, a 14th-century manuscript of the Riccardi family of Florence, was probably conceived in Siena. The advent of spices in the West was a particularly important event because apart from spreading new fragrances and tastes, they were acknowledged as extremely interesting by the learned men of the “medical art” in search of new remedies: thus the “spezierie” (apothecary’s shops) became part of the pharmacies of the time, largely the property of convents and abbeys.
Even after the loss of independence and the end of the Republic in 1555, the Medici let Siena remain quite independent and the city flourished from the sugar boom which transformed Tuscany in the first confectionary region in Europe. The heritage and tradition in the production of confectionary products have left an indelible sign in Siena. Still today, in the province of Siena, apart from the more well-known and popular “Ricciarelli” and the “Panforte”, numerous other confectionary specialties are produced: “cavallucci”, “copate” and “cantucci”.
Tradition has now been combined with innovation, art with science: it is certainly not by chance that DNA techniques have been used for the first time to check the authenticity of the raw materials used, especially the almonds, in the production of the “Ricciarelli di Siena” (see also the Press Release). These biscuits have also been the first Italian confectionary product to obtain the “IGP” (PGI) in 2010. In 2015, thanks to the development of a tracking system and enhancement of the product “Ricciarelli di Siena”, in collaboration with the “IGP” (PGI) Promotional Committee and with Co.Ge.P s.r.l., “Controllo genetico Piante e Cibi” (born as a Spin-off of the University of Siena), the Chamber of Commerce of Siena obtained the “Best-Practice”-Verso Expo 2015 award from the region of Tuscany.