Similar to other Italian food treasures, the crafting of cured meat has been perfected by generations of passionate producers using centuries-long techniques.
While the origin of salumi dates back to the Etruscans and Romans, it was during the Renessaince era that artisanal cuisine became popular at local festivals and banquets, and the value of cured meats truly came to light. Pork and beef were expertly butchered so each individual section of meat could be carefully preserved by treating them with salt, which would lead to the evaporation of water and create the perfect conditions for aging. As the process of curing meat grew in popularity amongst other regions of Italy, local climate (the amount of rainfall, for example, or the saltiness of the air) and unique flavour preferences ultimately created new varieties.
Additionally, producers began to experiment with combining minced meats, adding to the vast selection of salumi. This resulted in the creation of two categories of authentic, Italian cured meat: those made up from whole anatomic pieces (such as prosciutto, culatello, coppa, pancetta, speck and bresaola) and those based on minced meat (i.e. salami). It was during the industrial revolution that producers recognized that modern technology offered cost and time saving efficiencies, however they made a conscious decision to preserve the cultural heritage and traditions so quality was never compromised.
That decision is the reason why Italian deli meats are often imitated, but can never truly be duplicated.