Home of Parmigiano cheese aims for recognition as a World Heritage Site
Reggio Emilia – The Italian region of Emilia, homeland of the world-renowned Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, is aiming to obtain recognition of its “Intangible World Heritage” by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Culture organization (UNESCO).
The UNESCO Club of Reggio Emilia, in collaboration with the Consortium of Parmigiano Reggiano, says it will present a new study outlining what makes the region so special.
Silvio Cari Gallingani, the club’s curator, says the region has a unique distinctive, complex but also delicate balance of human, historical, cultural, and environmental factors that are “worthy of particular value and protection”.
The region and its Parmigiano Reggiano production was hit hard, 10% of the production for an estimated loss of 250-300 million dollars, by last year’s earthquake.
Some 300,000 Parmigiano Reggiano wheels were lost in and near the town of Modena when aging racks collapsed.
The Emilia region’s landscape is home to numerous cheese factories scattered along the main streets where the PDO Parmesan cheese is produced and sold.
The Parmesan is one of the most ancient cheeses and is still produced as eight centuries ago, with the same ingredients, the same technique and the same traditional care.
It is a completely natural cheese, the only one able to stand such a long maturing (24 months are needed to develop its best taste) and also is the only one that, participating in space missions, still conserve all its organoleptic and nutritional features: energy, taste, high digestibility.
The key features that distinguish this cheese from any other imitation dairy product are the strict production regulations, the close link with its land of origin, the use of raw milk and the wealth of natural ingredients.
At 12 months, the Consorzio Parmigiano-Reggiano inspects each and every cheese. The cheese is tested by a master grader whose only instruments are a hammer and his ear.
Those are all the factors that helped the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese to gain the European Union’s Protected Designation of Origin (DOP) status, which the consortium has fought to defend in European courts.
But Emilia’s treasures list is not fulfilled just with the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. The world-wide famous balsamic vinegar actually originated in Reggio, the main city in Emilia, which is where you’ll still find a miniature distillery in almost every family’s attic or basement.
Besides arts and natural landscape, UNESCO does take food and its origins into consideration for its intangible cultural heritage list. In 2010, UNESCO inscribed the Mediterranean diet on its intangible cultural heritage list at the request of Italy, Greece, Spain, and Morocco.
Ultimately, Reggio is also home to many lovely churches, cathedrals, towers and other ancient unique treasures and the very proud birthplace of the Italian flag.
If the request will be accepted Emilia will gain an even deeper level of protection for its treasures and Italy will add another recognition from UNESCO to the many the Bel Paese has already got in the past.
Just the Emilia Romagna region is home to three sites, which for their value and diversity have been placed among the international cultural and natural excellences of the world. We are referring to the Cities of Art of Modena, Ravenna, and Ferrara along with its Po river Delta.