THE HISTORY OF SAFFRON
Many legends related to the origin of saffron: from the love of Croco for the nymph Smilace, an affective relationship that the Gods did not share, turning Crocus into a beautiful and precious flower. Another legend has it that Mercury inadvertently struck Croco and to remember the memory of his missing friend, he had stained the precious plant with blood. Every legend has its time and demonstrates the uncertainty of the origin. One certainty is that we remember this flower in ancient times. The origin of the saffron flower in distant countries is now recognized, most likely in India and neighboring countries. A flower used at that time especially for dyeing art, cosmetics and as a medicine. From there the journey developed along the great paths navigators, explorers and traders carried out from one country to another. The oldest document attesting to its use and appreciation is an Egyptian papyrus from the 15th century BC and the flower is also mentioned in the Song of Songs of the Old Testament. After alternating fortunes he arrived in Europe and in particular in the Mediterranean countries that still cultivate it today: Greece, Italy and Spain. It is assumed that from this latter country the Saffron was introduced by the Spanish conquerors and spread to the most favorable areas of Europe for climate, soil and climatic conditions. Many names of villages or cities in Sicily and the southern regions are linked to this flower of an unparalleled elegance. Many historical documents affirm the presence of Saffron in Italy in different regions of Central Italy. Among the many contradictions existing on the primogeniture concerning the presence of the same in the various regions, one can accept one of the theses that Saffron wants to have been brought by an Abruzzese monk of the Court of the Inquisition in the XVI century from Spain to Abruzzo. At the same time, in Sicily, Sardinia and some central Italian countries the cultivation was in strong expansion also due to the merchants who praised the product and favored its trade. In the Middle Ages the pilgrim routes from Rome to northern Europe, the historic Francigena and the great classic "arteries" in the transport of goods and cultures favored the growth and knowledge of this spice, even by the farmers of the territories bordering the areas of trade, developing in the regions of central Italy such as Tuscany, Umbria, Abruzzo and the Marche. An extension that saw in the late 1800s, early 1900s in the province of L'Aquila only an area interested in Zafferano reach even 500 hectares. The cyclical phases of the economy, the evolution or the involution of consumption, the abandonment of the countryside has led in recent decades to the cultivation of saffron to be a supplementary crop to the income of other productions, present in a limited number and of regions and only in favorable areas. A crop that based on summary data can be estimated to be present in about fifty hectares distributed in Sardinia in the Medio Campidano area, in Abruzzo in the Navelli Plateau, in Tuscany in the provinces of Florence, Siena, Grosseto and Arezzo, in Umbria in the province of Perugia, in the Marche region. In this last decade there is a new interest on the part of young people, small and medium agricultural, agro-tourism and women entrepreneurs. The possible uses are increasingly alternative to the gastronomic ones, as in cosmetics but even more in the pharmacopoeia as its essential elements can be a solution or a complement to some diseases for its high antioxidant power and for its other researched capacities by eminent university institutes, research institutes in Italy and abroad. A true Renaissance for this flower whose passion is unchanged by Italian producers.