Although now imitated and made in other regions of the world, true Provolone originated in southern Italy, where it is still produced in many varying shapes and sizes. Today the major production of Italian Provolone takes place in northern Italy in the Po valley region, in particular Lombardy and Veneto.
In addition to the large variances in shape and size, flavors of Provolone can vary widely as well, according to the different facilities in which it is made (ranging from small-scale artisanal through to larger industrial) and the age at which it is sold. However, the texture is almost always semifirm and the cheese is made from cow's milk.
Maturation takes a minimum of four months and flavor of the cheeses varies from sharp, tangy flavor (Provolone Piccante) to the "Dolce" (sweet) version that has a mild taste. Although part of this is due to the age of the cheese, with flavors becoming more pronounced and assertive as they get older, the Piccante versions tend to be made using calf lipase whereas the Dolce versions use a lipase derived from goats.
The rind of Provolone is smooth and generally pale yellow in color. It is generally not recommended as good eating. The interior paste of the cheese is also pale yellow, becoming darker with age.
Some versions of Provolone are smoked.