Its controversial origin has often inspired curious anecdotes and legends: some claim that mortadella was born at the time of Etruscan Felsina or Roman Bononia.
The Archaeological Museum of Bologna houses an imperial Roman stele depicting seven pigs and a mortar, which would be the first evidence of the existence of a mortadella producer; others attribute the birth of mortadella to Galli Boi and their custom of eating cooked or stuffed pork meat.
Some legends even claim that mortadella was born during the Renaissance and others in the 16th century.
Despite the uncertainty of its origin, it is certain that mortadella was the result of a long-lasting process that had gradually improved the production techniques and turned it into a luxury product used by the great chefs of the 16th and 18th centuries to delight the noble families of the City.
In the early 19th century, mortadella cost three times more than the ham!
Even the origin of the name “mortadella” is controversial: perhaps it derives from the mortar used to press the pork meat, or perhaps from "mortarum", a sausage flavored with myrtle berries, or perhaps from "murtarum", intended as finely minced meat.
But despite the several doubts about the history of mortadella, there is a certain date destined to change the history of gastronomy: October 24, 1661.
On this date, the Cardinal Girolamo Farnese issued the world's first procedural guidelines to protect the quality of this gastronomic product.
The document established the exclusive use of pork meat, forbade producers without the needed qualifications to produce mortadella and provided that a quality seal had to be put on the finished product.
Each producer also had to declare the number of mortadellaes sold.
The procedural guidelines issued by Cardinal Farnese were followed by a series of regulations and edicts issued by the authorities to protect Mortadella.
Thanks to the growing attention to nutrition and the safeguard of typical products, Mortadella has obtained the PGI status (Protected Geographical Indication) and its production is protected by the Consortium of Mortadella di Bologna.