Italians on Italians
Beyond Toscano

The many breads of Italy – Focaccia

Italy is known for its diverse cuisine. Every region not only has its own take on pasta and pizza, but also bread. The breads of Italy are as diverse as you’ll find anywhere.

One of the classic Italian bread-styles is focaccia. But while the rest of the world is happy defining focaccia as a bread, there is some debate in Italy.

Made in a similar style to pizza dough, but with plenty of yeast to make it rise, most people know focaccia as a large, salty, moist bread. It’s light, absorbent texture makes it perfect for dipping – though chances are it will already be packed full of rich olive oil.

It’s the regional differences that tend to challenge the definition of focaccia. There’s focaccia alla genovese from Genoa (flat and salty) – considered the “original focaccia”, focaccia alla messinese from Messina (more like a pizza, with mozzarella and herbs) and focaccia alla barese, from Bari (made with combinations of tomatoes, olives, potatoes, herbs and salt). Least bread-like of all is Focaccia di Recco, which is a flat, moist dish packed full of cheese and looking more like a pancake than a loaf.

The name focaccia comes from the Latin word for ‘hearth’, referencing not just the embers of the fire on which it was traditionally baked, but it’s place at the heart of the family recipe book.