The first lemon plants were imported to Italy between the 11th and 12th centuries, thanks to the Amalfi in Campania, which was a centre of trade. Italy's Mediterranean climate, which is particularly suited to the production of citrus fruits, was certainly the main factor in the spread and cultivation of this plant, which has become a symbol of the peninsula.
In Tuscany the cultivation of lemons and citrus fruits in general reached an extraordinary splendour immediately, thanks to the Medici family, as the region became home to important collections of cultivars that are still kept by expert gardeners in the Medici gardens. More than 500 rare and valuable varieties are kept in the lemon houses of the villas and are maintained according to the historical practice of cultivation in terracotta pots.
On the other hand, this fruit was brought to the Lake Garda region in the 13th century by the monks of San Francesco di Gargnano, who built the incredible lemon houses that are still characteristic of the area today. It is undoubtedly the most northerly area in the world where citrus fruits were grown for commercial purposes (46° north latitude) and its architecture is still a unique example in the world after many centuries, even if few lemon houses are still in operation.
Sicily is unquestionably the most important producer of lemons in the Mediterranean and the Syracuse area is certainly among the most representative in Italy, albeit far from the only one.
The Sorrento peninsula is probably the best known and most symbolic Italian territory for lemon production. The fruit has been grown there since 1500 and its particular cultivation technique makes it undoubtedly different from all other national crops. In this area, lemons are still grown under chestnut pergolas and thatched roofs that protect the plants from wind and frost while the fruit ripens. This structure known as the Sorrentine pergola characterizes the landscape of this stretch of coastline.