I was visiting an American friend in Rome a while back who had gone years without eating pancakes, so, on a whim, decided to surprise her with breakfast one morning.
I expected some of the ingredients would be difficult to track down, such as maple syrup, but I was surprised that baking soda was so hard to find. After looking in several different types of stores, I did eventually get some sodium bicarb, but it wasn't sold with baking ingredients -- I think it was with the cleaning products. Baking powder was more readily available, so I assumed that acids are less commonly used in Italian leavening (and, of course, that most Italian baking is not of the quick bread or batter-based variety). Anyone know any other reason?