The most noticeable thing about Italian cooking is the amount of variation that exists between regions within the country.
Italy's climate varies between the north and south. In northern Italy, temperatures can reach below the freezing during the winters, with snow in the northern most areas. Southern Italy has a warmer, more moderate climate.
Italy is a peninsula in the Mediterranean Sea in Europe. Its most prominent feature is its boot-like shape kicking the island of Sicily. Mountains cover much of Italy. Most of the country's population lives in northern Italy, particularly on the west coast around Rome and Naples, and in the Po Valley. Southern Italy is more rural, even though the hot, dry climate is not very productive for farming.
Northern Italy's Po Valley provides good farmland for rice, wheat and other grains. Southern Italy grows fruits, olives and tomatoes, where irrigation is possible. Many areas of Italy also grow grapes.
Italy is one of the largest wine producers in the world. Northern Italy has a wide range of industries. It is best known for its fashionable designs in clothes, shoes and furniture. Other manufacturing includes automobiles, computers and electronic equipment.
Italy is a fairly young country, only a few hundred years old. Before, Italy was divided into kingdoms, dukedoms, republics, princedoms, and the area belonging to the Pope. They didn't have much contact with each other, except for fighting in wars, and they certainly didn't go and see what their neighbours were eating. As a result, each region of Italy has it's own local specialties.
The reliance upon what the country can produce has shaped a diet popular for centuries, particularly with the poorer Italian people, and is called la cucina povera. This "poor people's food" is being touted as the model around to...