for National Geographic News
Part ten of a special series that explores the local faces of the world's worst food crisis in decades.
The ongoing crisis in food prices has made a luxury of one of the world's most iconic foods even in its affluent homeland.
Italians are shirking pizza due to skyrocketing bills and turning increasingly to pasta, which remains comparatively cheap despite also seeing large increases in cost.
"When I was a student, it was a Saturday night classic: You went out with your friends and had a pizza," said Cristina Romanelli, a 34-year-old living in Rome. "Now you spend so much you can do it only once in a while."
In fact, the number of Italians who say their favorite food is pizza has dropped from 14.1 percent to 8.7 percent in the past two years, according to a survey from GPF Research Institute, a private opinion poll company.
Rising cereal costs, experts say, are pumping up the cost of the wheat flour used to make pizza dough. Wheat costs have grown 23.2 percent since April 2007, according to the national Institute of Services for Agricultural and Food Markets.
(Related video: "World Food in Crisis".)
Olive oil and mozzarella, both vital components of traditional Neapolitan pies, cost more as well. Olive oil prices have risen 10.9 percent and mozzarella prices 14.3 percent since April 2007.
"That's mainly due to recent fluctuations in [the] oil market. We need it to warm greenhouses and cattle sheds, to fuel machines, to transport products, and we have to import all of it," said Sergio Marini, president of Coldiretti, the Italian farmers union. "Italian agriculture is deeply affected by international oil prices."
In total, pizza prices have gone up 13 percent since April 2007, according to Italy's National Institute for Statistics.
Antonio Pace, president of Verace Pizza Napoletana Association, a group of pizzeria owners, pointed out that the cost of raw ingredients only accounts for 20 to 25 percent of the price of a pizza.