pane di Terni

the loaf of controversy

The bread of Terni, capital of southern Umbria, is popular not only through the region but also across Tuscany (where it is called pane toscano) and especially in Rome. What makes this Umbrian bread special is the lack of salt in the recipe.

Terni used to be part of the Papal States, and the story goes that the Ternani stopped putting salt in as a protest when the hated popes imposed a salt tax. Historians say that's just a fairytale. It is interesting though, that the zone of pane di Terni popularity is roughly coterminous with the heartland of the ancient Etruscans.

Milan's Corriere della Sera has called it 'insipid', and in fact pane di Terni is heavy, disagreeable and utterly tasteless, each loaf a dense, mournful paving-stone on the road to existential despair. Even in the villages of Terni province, bakers do a brisk trade in 'French bread' alongside the local speciality.

So central Italy is roughly divided between those who hate the stuff and those who love it. In its favour, we can say that its tastelessness highlights cheeses and charcuterie, and it is often used at wine tastings because it offers no distraction to the taste of the wine.

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