The history of Italian food is an adventure that takes us a long, long way from advertising's cosy tales of mamma rolling gnocchi for the bambini, or the peasants eating pizza under the pergola. The idea that Italian food issues from a world of timeless rustic simplicity is false.
This six-part series focuses on Italian identity, and with it the Italian flair for food. It's also rather funny - host John Dickie is Professor of Italian Studies at University College London, and the author of several books including Delizia - the epic history of the Italians and their food, Mafia Republic: Italy's Criminal Curse and Cosa Nostra: A History of the Sicilian Mafia, but he's far from a dusty academic. He brings to the series wit and a rather entertaining willingness to throw himself into all manner of unexpected situations, from donning painfully authentic recreations of Roman sandals to drinking a vile "sports" drink. Happily for our adventurous host, there are also some fine meals and meetings with good cooks and leading chefs.