The 5 Coolest Facts About The History of Biscotti

Biscotti Originated From The Roman Legions

There is a common misconception that biscotti originated in the Tuscan region of Italy, when in reality it was created a few centuries earlier in Rome. The word biscotto is derived from the Latin 'bis' for 'twice' and 'coctum' or 'baked' which would soon be adapted to 'cotto' meaning 'cooked'.

The first round in the oven was used to cook the dough, and the second round dried and preserved the biscotti, providing an extraordinarily long shelf life for nourishment during the Roman Legions' extended journeys and conquests. Pliny the Elder, an author, philosopher, and naval commander used to boast that biscotti would be edible for centuries.

Biscotti Being Eaten By Roman Legions

Antonio Mattei Brought Biscotti Resurgence In Italy

After the fall of the Roman Empire around 110 A.D, the country was besieged by Visigoths, Vandals, and others resulting in the period known as the Dark Ages. This was characterized by a lack of culinary or cultural development as citizens struggled to thrive.

From the Dark Ages came the Renaissance, and with it the reemergence of biscotti by an Italian baker named Antonio Mattei in the mid 1800’s. His original recipe was awarded a prize at the Exhibitions in Florence in 1861, London in 1862 and Paris in 1867. The recipe is still kept as a secret of the Pandolfini family, who inherited the original bakery in 1904, and are now in their fourth generation of running it.

On the 160th anniversary of the bakery's opening, the Piccolo Museo Bottega (small museum shop) was opened in the heart of Florence as an ode to Mattei and his art. 

Antonio Mattei

Biscotti Was Originally Served With Sweet Wine

Vin Santo, or Vino Santo, is a smooth, sweet dessert wine made predominantly in the Tuscan region of Italy. The wine is cherished for its intense flavors of hazelnut, caramel and apricot, and for centuries many Italians have adored the tradition of the perfect pairing of Vin Santo with biscotti. 

While biscotti today is often enjoyed with a coffee or espresso, many Italians still find the sweet wine pairing the ultimate ending to a meal or a perfect treat to while away the afternoon at a cafe.

Barrels of Italian Vin Santo

Bakers Revolutionized Biscotti With Almonds and Anisette

With biscotti’s reemergence in Italy came its revolution from the pallid, dry staple of Roman nourishment into a culinary gift reflecting distinct local flavors, like the Prato almonds native to Tuscany.

Biscotti became so popular as it spread throughout the peninsula that soon every province developed its own flavored version. Ingredients quickly expanded to include anisette, amaretto and even lemon-flavored doughs. 

Almond Field in Prato Italy

Christopher Columbus Carried Biscotti On His Voyages

Legend has it that Italian explorer Christopher Columbus tucked a stash of biscotti in the hull of one of his three sailing ships - the Niña, the Pinta, or the Santa Maria - on his legendary expedition to the Americas at the tail end of the Dark Ages in 1492.

Christopher Columbus' Three Ships Carrying Biscotti To America

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