Italian cuisine as an UNESCO candidate

cucina italiana Roberta Garibaldi Comitato scientifico

The procedure of the UNESCO candidacy of the Italian cuisine started in July 2020 on the initiative of Maddalena Fossati, director of La cucina italiana in collaboration with the agencies SpoonGroup and BIA and with the support and backing of the Central Institute for Intangible Heritage of MiBACT and ANCI.

Here is the scientific committee that will support and draw up the dossier necessary for the candidacy:

  • Roberta Garibaldi – Professor of Tourism Management, President of the Italian Association of Gastronomy Tourism
  • Luisa Bocchietto – Architect, Senator of the World Design Organization
  • Alberto Capatti – Historian of Italian Food and Gastronomy, member of the Steering Committee of Institut Européen d’Histoire de l’Alimentation
  • Giovanna Frosini – Professor of History of the Italian Language, Accademia della Crusca, Coordinator in Historical Linguistics, Educational Linguistics and Italian studies
  • Massimo Montanari – Professor of Medieval History and History of Food at the University of Bologna
  • Paolo Petroni – President of the Italian Academy of Cuisine
  • Vincenzo Santorio – Person in charge of Culture and Tourism Department of Italian Association of Municipalities
  • Luca Serianni – Professor of History of the Italian Language at La Sapienza University, coordinates the committee that organizes the Museum of the Italian Language in Florence
  • Laila Tentoni – President of Casa Artusi
  • Vito Teti – Anthropologist and writer, director of the Centro Demo-Antropologico Raffaele Lombardi Satriani of the University of Calabria, member of the Italian Committee of Anthropology of Food

“An honor for me to be appointed as member of the scientific committee. The inscription of the Italian cuisine in the UNESCO heritage list, in addition to the value that it holds, is a stimulus and an opportunity to develop new projects, create synergies, promote the territory also in terms of tourism” says Roberta Garibaldi. “I believe that through this project we can enhance the value of food and wine to make it an engine of restart in such an important moment. And we will do it starting from our products, from our recipes, as well as from the stories of our producers, from local traditions and landscapes which become of gastronomy value in a perspective of integration between innovation, sustainability and respect for traditions”.

These days the “Cous Cous” and the “Street Food of Singapore”, emblems of the hawker culture of the country, have been inscribed in the list of intangible heritage of UNESCO, further recognition of the uniqueness of the cultural value of gastronomy heritage, element which connotes territories and expresses knowledge, traditions, uses and customs of the people who live there and that have been consolidated in time.

Italian heritage linked to gastronomy already included in the UNESCO list

In addition to the 1.121 sites inscribed on the World Heritage Sites lists drawn up by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization-UNESCO, there are 532 intangible goods, i.e., practices, representations, expressions, as well as knowledge and skills that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage; of these, 14 refer to Italian traditions.

The “Mediterranean Diet” was the first food and wine-related transnational intangible heritage to be included in this special list, having been recognized in 2013. In the following years, the list has been expanding, also thanks to the efforts made at national and regional level in supporting the candidatures. Among the intangible heritage there are, in fact, the “Traditional agricultural practice of cultivating the ‘vite ad alberello’ (head-trained bush vines) of the community of Pantelleria” (2014) and “Art of Neapolitan ‘Pizzaiuolo’” (2017). These are agricultural and culinary practices handed down through practical and oral instructions for generations and for which their cultural and identity value have been recognized by UNESCO as heritage worthy of protection.

The “Vineyard Landscape of Piedmont: Langhe-Roero and Monferrato” (2014) and the “Le Colline del Prosecco di Conegliano e Valdobbiadene” (2019) are among the tangible heritage that can boast of this important recognition. Like the Amalfi Coast, the 5 Terre, the Cilento and Vallo di Diano, the Sacred Mounts, the Val d’Orcia, the Medici Villas and Gardens, they are inscribed on the World Heritage List as cultural landscape because of the uniqueness and the positive interaction between man and environment, in this case through the practice of viticulture.

Our country also boasts three of the six cities awarded the title of “Creative Cities for Gastronomy”, the initiative promoted by UNESCO to network and promote cooperation between the centers which have identified creativity and gastronomy as strategic elements for sustainable urban development. Parma (Emilia-Romagna) and Alba (Piedmont) received the prestigious award in 2015 and 2017, respectively, thanks to both the food and wine excellency of the two territories and their commitment to the development of innovative policies and best practices that feature food and wine. In 2019 the city of Bergamo was added to the list, thanks to its gastronomic heritage rich in traditional products, among which the production of cheese stand out, representing a strong link between the city and the valleys.

The European panorama

As of 2020 there are 29 European sites protected and connected to gastronomy; of these, 13 are tangible and 16 intangible. The first nominations date back to the end of the 1970s, with the recognition of the salt mines of Wieliczka and Bochnia (Poland). Between the 1980s and the early 2000s, the French salt mines of Salins-les-Bains and Arc-et-Senans (1982), the Portuguese wine-growing region of Alto Douro (1989), the landscape of wine culture on the island of Pico in Portugal (1996), the Hungarian wine-growing region of Tokaj (2002) and the terraced vineyards of Lavaux in Switzerland (2007) were included.

But it is in the last decade that we are witnessing a rapid and consistent growth of the properties included in the UNESCO list, index of a renewed attention and a strong desire to protect the local gastronomy culture both in its tangible and intangible expressions. Excluding Italy, the agricultural landscapes of Causses and Cévennes (France) and Kujataa (Denmark), the French wine territories of Champagne and Bourgogne have been added. Moving on to the intangible, the list is much broader and more varied, including, among others, Belgian brass culture, Turkish coffee, the gastronomic meal of the French and the artisanal techniques of lime production of Morón de la Frontera in Spain.

As far as the “Creative Cities for Gastronomy” are concerned, besides the 3 Italian cities (Alba, Parma and Bergamo) there are Burgos and Denia in Spain, Östersund in Sweden and Bergen in Norway.