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This Italian hard cheese has long lived in the shadow of Parmigiano Reggiano, but there’s no real reason why it should. We put seven supermarket brands under the spotlight…

Grana Padano cheese has a long and noble history: originally made by the Cistercian monks of Chiaravalle way back in the 12th century, it is now produced across five Italian regions and 13 provinces, from Veneto to Piedmont and from Emilia-Romagna to Trentino. A hard cheese made from unpasteurised cow’s milk with a fat content of 39-41 per cent, the name comes from its grainy (grano) texture and the original production area of Pianura Padana (the Po Valley). In 1996 it was granted PDO (Product of Designated Origin) accreditation, so look out for the logo: it is the mark of quality and provenance that ensures the genuine article. Pale golden and smooth, the texture is solid but yielding and finely grained; when cut with a knife it should crumble into slivers. It comes in three vintages: 9-16 months; over 16 months; and aged Riserva, from 20 to upwards of 24 months. It is in the same family as Parmigiano Reggiano with a delicious umami hit, and a lower price, so if that is the style of cheese that whets your appetite, give Grana Padano a try.

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About Italia!

True to form, this issue is packed with fascinating features and articles covering the Italian peninsula. You’ll love the evocative account of a visit to Genoa – our cover star this month – there is so much to see and admire, and take a boat trip out onto the Venetian lagoon to explore the forgotten islands, all with poignant tales to tell. Our newest writer Anna takes us on a tour of the Alta Maremma, once a marshy swamp and now the home to some of the finest wines in Italy, while the Po Delta is the destination for a weekend away.