The name literally means 'little bitter things', from the slightly bitter taste of the almonds. The Arabs invented them in Sicily; now they are made all over Italy.
The most reputed amaretti come from the town of Saronno in Lombardy (which also makes two kinds of amaretto). The story tells how a young couple of Saronno invented amaretti out of sugar, egg whites and almonds when the bishop of Milan paid the town a surprise visit.
Image by ben dalton