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Italy is the leading rice producer in Europe with the largest scale genetic selection and an unparalleled rice cuisine internationally.

Certainly the Romans knew of it too but they used it as a medicine. Rice is a relatively modern cereal for Italy. The first rice field was planted in 1468 and the first record of rice farming was in 1475 and it is a letter from Galeazzo Maria Sforza who sent twelve sacks of rice to the Duke of Ferrara that year. But just six centuries later Italy was the largest producer in Europe (more than half of the continent's production) with the greatest specialisation in certain areas of the Po plains and constant research into new variants. Some types of Italian rice were born in the early twentieth century such as Roma, Balilla Originario and Vialone Nano. Genetic rice research has never stopped and the result is some of the most important rices in the world such as Carnaroli (a Vialone and Lencino cross, 1945), Arborio (1946) and Baldo (1964) and experiments with aromatic rice such as Venere or a new Basmati selection from Indica (early 1970s). The Italian rice grown in the rice fields has led to the development of a strong gastronomic tradition to the extent that each type of rice has a corresponding Italian dish for a total of around 130 different recipes. Certainly it was the Arabs who brought rice to the south of Italy (sartù and arancini are remnants of this colonisation) but it was between Vercelli and Verona that it grew the most, generating that extraordinary dish risotto on the Po plains.