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Not a Pizza: Pompeii Wall Painting Depicts a Different Culinary Delight

by Chloe Baker
5 comments
Pompeii fresco

Recently uncovered in the archaeological site of Pompeii, a still-life fresco has caught attention for its resemblance to a pizza. However, experts at the site have clarified that it is not the iconic Italian dish due to the absence of key ingredients, namely tomatoes and mozzarella, which were unavailable when the fresco was painted approximately 2,000 years ago.

Tomatoes were introduced to Europe from the Americas only a few centuries ago, and historical accounts suggest that the discovery of mozzarella directly contributed to the creation of pizza in nearby Naples during the 1700s.

Instead, the image is believed to depict a focaccia adorned with fruits such as pomegranate and possibly dates, finished off with spices or a type of pesto. The fresco portrays the dish served on a silver plate, accompanied by a wine chalice.

The contrast between the modest meal and the luxurious setting, symbolized by the silver tray, bears resemblance to modern-day pizza. Originally born as a dish for the economically disadvantaged in southern Italy, pizza has transcended boundaries and gained worldwide popularity, even gracing the menus of Michelin-starred restaurants. Gabriel Zuchtriegel, director of the Pompeii archaeological site, noted this parallel.

Pompeii, the ancient Roman city, was decimated by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. The cataclysmic event preserved much of the city’s structure in volcanic ash, making it a significant archaeological project and tourist attraction today.

Upon the discovery of the fresco, the Coldiretti agricultural lobby swiftly seized the opportunity to promote pizza as a national treasure. Originally devised as a quick meal for the working class, pizza now accounts for one-third of the food budget of foreign visitors and generates an annual revenue of 15 billion euros ($16.4 billion) in Italy.

In 2017, the art of Neapolitan pizzamaking was included in UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage list, recognizing its meticulous four-phase dough preparation and its exclusive baking in a wood oven at a scorching temperature of 485 degrees Celsius (905 degrees Fahrenheit).

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Pompeii fresco

Q: What was discovered in the Pompeii archaeological site?

A: A still-life fresco resembling a pizza was discovered in the Pompeii archaeological site. However, experts clarified that it is not a pizza but a fruit-covered focaccia.

Q: Why is the fresco not considered a pizza?

A: The fresco was painted around 2,000 years ago when key pizza ingredients like tomatoes and mozzarella were not available. It is believed to depict a focaccia adorned with fruits such as pomegranate and possibly dates.

Q: What is the significance of the silver plate and wine chalice in the fresco?

A: The fresco portrays the focaccia served on a silver plate, accompanied by a wine chalice. This contrast between a modest meal and a luxurious setting reflects the similarity to modern-day pizza, which originated as a dish for the economically disadvantaged but gained popularity worldwide.

Q: What happened to the ancient city of Pompeii?

A: Pompeii was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. The volcanic ash preserved much of the city’s structure, making it an important archaeological site and tourist attraction today.

Q: How is pizza celebrated in Italy?

A: The discovery of the fresco prompted the Coldiretti ag lobby to promote pizza as a national treasure. Pizza represents one-third of the food budget of foreign visitors and generates significant annual revenues in Italy.

Q: When was the art of Neapolitan pizzamaking recognized?

A: In 2017, the art of Neapolitan pizzamaking was included in UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage list. This recognition highlights the meticulous dough preparation and exclusive baking methods used in making authentic Neapolitan pizza.

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5 comments

PizzaFanatic999 June 27, 2023 - 11:09 pm

UNESCO recognized the art of Neapolitan pizzamaking? That’s awesome! It’s a testament to the skill and tradition behind making the perfect pizza. Now I’m craving a delicious, authentic Neapolitan pizza!

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TravelAddict23 June 27, 2023 - 11:49 pm

Pompeii is definitely on my bucket list now! It’s incredible how a catastrophic event like the eruption of Mount Vesuvius preserved a whole city. Can’t wait to see the fresco and explore the archaeological site.

Reply
HistoryBuff123 June 28, 2023 - 2:06 am

That’s fascinating! The discovery shows how Italian cuisine has evolved over time. From a fruit-covered focaccia to the iconic pizza we know today, it’s a journey worth exploring.

Reply
FoodieGuru June 28, 2023 - 4:19 am

Pizza as a national treasure? I couldn’t agree more! It’s amazing how pizza has become an integral part of Italian culture and generates significant revenue. It’s not just a dish; it’s an experience.

Reply
ArtEnthusiast56 June 28, 2023 - 2:22 pm

The contrast between the simple meal and the luxurious setting in the fresco is intriguing. It’s like a glimpse into the past, reflecting the origins of pizza as a humble dish that has now become a global sensation.

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