Food, of course, is an overwhelming part of Italy’s identity. So it’s interesting to see what Italians actually purchase at grocery stores. The following was based on a study conducted by Italy’s National Institute for Statistics and expanded on by another Italian research agency. The data are based on expenses for food products region by region and give a picture of how Italians eat and drink in different geographic areas.
In general, the results confirm commonly held beliefs; that is, that typical regional products and consumer habits coincide. Most consumers do not stray far from their own traditions. But there are some surprises… certainly for Americans, and even for Italians.
Meat and fish: Apparently it isn’t surprising that the inhabitants of Abruzzo are the major purchasers of meat from sheep and lamb. The same for Tuscans who like game and rabbit, and the Pugliese who like horse meat, and the people from Campania who like pork. But Italians seem to be surprised that chicken is at the top of the list in Sicily. Perhaps it is because there is so much local fish that meat is relatively scarse in the diet? No surprise that fresh and frozen fish are top sellers in Sicily and Campania and much weaker in northern regions.
Pasta: Can’t imagine that it is not loved and purchased equally throughout Italy. But, in fact, it is consumed more in the central and southern part of the country. First place belongs to Le Marche, followed by Molise, Abruzzo, and Campania—regions that host excellent production companies.
Dairy: Cheese was not mentioned in the article…perhaps because so many cheeses are regionally produced and consumed. Lazio is at the head of the list for whole milk, followed by Campania and Puglia. And apparently it’s not surprising that people from Trentino Alto-Adige in the north are the major consumers of yogurt.
Bread: Those who live in Piedmont spend more for bread and grissini (bread sticks) than any other food product! But remember that grissini were “born” in Turin.
Dessert: Who are the most gluttonous in Italy? Those from Lombardy. They are first in the purchase of gelati and second behind Trentino Alto-Adige for pastry.
Drinks: Apparently Italians are surprised that the citizens of Sardegna love coffee. It is surprising to me that coffee isn’t universal throughout Italy! Another surprise: In Friuli Venezia Giula, a drink called “chinotti” is a constant in the shopping carts. It is a sweet carbonated drink. For alcoholic drinks, go to Emilia-Romagna for wine and to Calabria for beer. For liguor, go north: The Veneto and Trentino Alto-Adige are the regions that spend the most on “a glass.”
Vegetables: Those who live in Campania invest more in their true regional treasure—tomatoes (okay, maybe a fruit) in cans while they are second in the purchase of fresh tomatoes, beaten only by people from Puglia. Here is a surprise: Liguria and Trentino Alto-Adige, two regions with relatively little land that can be cultivated, are the regions that spend more for both fresh and frozen vegetables. At the bottom of the list are Calabria, Sicily, Campania, and Puglia, regions that overwhelmingly provide the garden produce of Italy. But is it possible that these southern regions grow their own in small and large gardens and/ or purchase vegetables from farmers’ markets, data not captured by this study?