Italy is famed for the protection of their traditional ways of growing, harvesting, and making local products. From Parmigiano Reggiano in Emilia Romagna to the “Sfusato” lemon in Campania, there are more than 200 DOP (protected designation of origin) and IGP (protected geographical indication) products that offer the ‘true taste’ of Italy. The region of Tuscany produces more than 20 of those. So for food lovers in search of authenticity, trying Tuscany’s DOP and IGP products should be an essential part of your visit.
The honey of Lunigiana (Miele della Lunigiana), in particular, has earned the DOP title thanks to the acacia honey and chestnut honey being produced in this region. Both honeys are held in high regard in worldwide honey communities due to their distinct flavours and unparalleled quality.
The Protection Consortium Of The Honey Of Lunigiana DOP was the first honey producers in Italy to earn a DOP and the honey has to undergo strict analysis to make sure there are no chemicals or contaminants and the honey is indeed pure. Due to the unique micro climate of the region and the environmental conservation of open spaces, natural landscapes, and agricultural land by the locals, this makes Lunigiana an ideal spot to produce honey of the highest and purest quality.
The honey from the Cooperativa Sociale Il Pungiglione, that today produces all the PDO honey of the Lunigiana is a particularly interesting tale, as not only are they working together to create a delicious range of unique honey’s to sell, but they are also working to help people in need get back on their feet. People who have just been released from prison and are integrating back into the community, former sex workers who need a helping hand getting off the streets, and illegal immigrants who have come to Italy looking for sanctuary. All people are welcomed into this social co-operative and not only given opportunities to learn a new vocation but to have a place to live as well. The factory isn’t just a place to process the honey of Lunigiana, thanks to the additional housing provided by the co-operative, it’s a place that many people also call home.
During our visit to the factory and showroom, we were shown the process of how honey is made. From beginning to end the entire group hung on every word of our guide Maria Jose (Beekeeping National Congress). We wandered from room to room learning everything from the day to day business of bees through to the factory processing and even how modern bee hives work.
Maria painted a picture of the fascinating life of the bee. For example, the collective distance bees travel to produce 1 kilo of honey is equivalent to going 2.5 times around the equator of the Earth. Yet the bees collect only from flowers within a 2KM radius of the hive. That’s a lot of bees doing a lot of short trips!
It’s amazing, we all eat and love honey, but after learning what it takes for them to create this sacred liquid, you find yourself with a growing admiration for the humble bee, and in turn want to be a better consumer and advocate for ethical production. This is what the co-operative is all about, and their education, and sustainable farming practice is key to the honeybee’s success.
As production is so small this honey is only distributed in Italy, so a trip to Tuscany is a must if you want to taste the story of this honey for yourself. You can also arrange to take a tour of the co-operative from April until August, make sure you contact them in advance to book your visit.