Italians on Italians
Beyond Toscano

Dumb bread says a lot about Tuscan tastes

Dumb bread says a lot about Tuscan tastes
One of the key ingredients of bread is salt. It gives the dough flavor and acts as a preservative. And yet, there’s a bread popular in Tuscany that contains none of it, earning the name dumb bread, or silly bread.

It seems to be a uniquely Tuscan tradition, though many people add the salt themselves, which can result in there being too much salt added to the crust before eating. The tradition began in Florence during poorer times, although there are a couple of theories why. One is that because salt was taxed so highly by Pope Paul III, it was made it prohibitively expensive, so it became a luxury and was left out of many recipes. This was deemed ridiculous for an essential ingredient, so the name ‘silly bread’ was created in protest of the tax. Another theory is that the trade rivalry between Pisa and Florence, led to Pisa blocking shipments of salt from reaching Florence, and the bread being created in defiance.

However it began, the taste of bread without salt is a very Tuscan thing. Dante in his famous Divine Comedy even wrote “when leaving home you shall learn how salty the taste of another’s bread, and how hard the path descending and climbing another’s stairs”, which was essentially his way of saying “there’s no place like home.”