The Italian saffron is still today considered the best in quality and purity, packaging stigmas is the best guarantee against adulteration, which unfortunately is frequently found in powders, especially from outside the European Union.
Of course, when cooking, they use very low doses, and everyone can afford to buy it, in fact, it only takes a small amount (eg.: 0.1 gr. For a risotto for 4 people, 3 euros).
The price of saffron, is given apart from the fact that it is the pollen of Crocus sativus, the treatment, which must be done all by hand, from harvesting, with the choice.
The cultivation of saffron in Italy, has a centuries-old tradition that began in medieval times, when the monaco Santucci, a great lover of agriculture, he smuggled in Abruzzo, a few bulbs of Crocus sativus.
The Italian saffron, can be used in many Italian recipes, but the most famous is the Saffron Risotto, also called 'Risotto alla Milanese', but also in ice cream and desserts.
Warning: the Italian saffron, is one of the most protected by Italian law, the places where they are produced: the province of L'Aquila in Abruzzo (L'Aquila saffron DOP), in the province of Nuoro in Sardinia (Sardegna's saffron DOP), Cascia in Umbria, Tuscany, San Gimignano. Saffron is harvested in December.
Here is a nice documentary on the history of Italian saffron: