Before the arrival of imported sugar, honey was the main sweet used in Italian cooking, and it still has a prominent place in the kitchen. Italians use it not only in desserts, but in breads and pastries and even on cheese (especially in the sweet-toothed south).
Across the country you will find a dizzying array of special honeys: honey from linden (lime tree) or chestnut blossoms, eucalyptus, sunflower or arbutus. Sardinian bees make it from asphodel or wild cardoons. Honey from the Mediterranean macchia is popular, as is miele de zagara (citrus blossoms), and even miele di bergamotto from the south.
Miele della Lunigiana from Tuscany and miele delle Dolomiti Bellunesi are the first, and undoubtedly not the last, to get DOP status. A number of other honeys are in the Ark of Taste:
Miele di cardo: thistle honey.
Miele di lavanda selvatica: wild lavender honey.
Miele di rododendro: rhododendron honey.
Miele di rosmarino: rosemary honey.
Miele di santoreggia: mountain savoury honey from Abruzzo.
Miele di tarassaco: dandelion honey from Piedmont.
Miele di timo dei monti Iblei: thyme honey from the mountains by Ragusa, Sicily.
Mieli di alta montagna: various wild flower honeys from the Dolomites.
Images by: Louise Docker