The Battle of Pavia and the origin of the Zuppa Pavese

battle paviaOn February the 24th, 1525, almost 500 years ago now, the decisive battle that determined the supremacy over Northern Italy was fought in the large Visconti Park, just north of the city of Pavia in Lombardy. This battle is renowned for being the first example of “modern” warfare and also as being the first one in which hand-held firearms played a decisive role.

After years of struggle for the possession of Lombardy and a long siege of Pavia the French army suffered a devastating blow (comparable to the one at Agincourt) in which many high ranking commanders were killed and the French king, Francois I was caught. The emperor Charles V won and confirmed the Spanish possession of Lombardy for a long time to come. There are many artworks in museums all over the world that depict scenes of this battle.

Legend has it that after being caught Francois was led away from the battlefield to a cascina, farmhouse, in order to eat some food. Unfortunately the farmer’s wife only had a few edible things available and so she had to improvise a meal from the broth, the eggs and the stale bread she could provide.

zuppa paveseFrancois, being very hungry, appreciated the resulting soup so much that once freed and back in Paris he ordered his court chef to prepare it often. The improvised dish subsequently became known as the now famous Zuppa Pavese and is still served in restaurants of the region today.

The battle is reenacted every two years in September at the small town of San Genesio ed Uniti, between Pavia and Milan.

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