Now you know where the famous parmesan cheese comes from. But that’s not the only gastronomic delight that Parma is famous for. A small university town located in the North-Eastern part of Italy, Parma has recently joined the UNESCO Creative Cities network, an initiative meant to promote cooperation with and among cities that have identified creativity as a strategic factor for sustainable urban development.
“Parma is on top of the world. Ours is the first Italian city in history to become UNESCO’s heritage site for Gastronomy. Despite all the prophets of misfortune, our idea was rated the best among those presented by the different nominees from around the world,” said Mayor Federico Pizzarotti, declaring his joy when Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director-General, appointed Parma as the UNESCO City of Gastronomy in December 2015.
It is the first Italian city to get the prestigious recognition for its gastronomic value and join 13 other cities including Bélem, Bergen, Burgos, Chengdu, Dénia, Gaziantep, Jeonju, Östersund, Phuket, Rasht, Shunde, Tsuruoka,and Tuscon.
Why has such a shy mid-sized town succeeded in entering the UNESCO network of Creative Cities? Well, Parma is not exactly what you would call shy when it comes to food. The city not only boasts of amazing culinary products, but also hosts a unique network of food-related companies, consortia, and academies. Just to name a few: EFSA, the European Food Security Agency, has relocated to Parma since 2003. Alma, the international cooking school headed by Gualtiero Marchesi, known as the founder of modern Italian cuisine, attracts flocks of aspiring chefs from all over the world. Cibus, a showcase, and trade fair focused on food, has gained international recognition and Barilla, The pasta factory, which recently opened nearby its Academia, was founded in Parma.
But big brand names are not Parma’s only attraction, for visitors of all ages enjoy high-quality tavernas, trattorie, and wineries which are spread all over the territory.
Parma: the Heart of Flavour. Production, Experience, Education
Parma and its county, Emilia-Romagna, serves as a bridge between continental European cuisine and the Mediterranean diet. It distinguishes itself thanks to its home-made pasta dishes, pork products, cheese and soul-stirring red wines.
The UNESCO recognition has triggered a rich program that highlight Parma’s three main aspects of food culture, namely, production, experience, and education. “UNESCO said that food is not only a commercial product but also the symbol of a community, the result of a process of identity representation that demonstrates our creativity even in this field. Nobody will be able to be as good as those who produce food and who are able to make it recognizable worldwide,” said Maurizio Martina, Minister of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies . For this reason, the Parma Heart of Flavour consortium, whose creation is a direct consequence of the UNESCO appointment, connects all food operators on the territory and guarantees the quality and authenticity of the products while preserving the city’s unique food experience.
A gluttonous glance at a ‘forma’ of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese Winery on the hilly side of the province of Parma
Parma Ham is pork meat salted, patiently groomed and controlled by experts. Nothing more is added aside from the fire branding which qualifies it as ‘Prosciutto di Parma’, which translates to “World’s Best”.
Parmigiano-Reggiano is a highly-controlled hard texture cheese which can only be made by a very selected list of ingredients such as milk by grass or hay-fed cows. Its aging lasts an average of two years.
To quench your thirst, take a sip of the exquisite Parma wines. The D’Origine Controllata (DOC) wines are protected by a consortium which controls and certifies their origins, the hilly side of the province, and their process – that must take place within the same geographical area.
Parma Ham, Parmigiano-Reggiano and DOC Wines of the Hills of Parma are what a rezdora – an ancient dialect term which refers to the traditional Parma housewife – will most likely offer you at lunch, and maybe breakfast and dinner as well.
Focus on the Food Experience
To experience the food culture in Parma a little more closely, especially if you’re a food lover, you can visit a ham factory and the Museum of Prosciutto di Parma in Langhirano.
While driving along the Road of Ham and Wines, you can stop by several cheese factories and visit the Museum of Parmigiano Reggiano, which was originally an eighteen-century dairy. The new Pasta Museum is located nearby too. For the delight of a food traveler, there are several tours combining food and other activities such as food and bike, food and wellness and organized gourmet tours are also available.
Thanks to the UNESCO Creative Cities network, Parma has attained international acclaim and has put its rich food culture and tradition on the world map. Like I said in the beginning, tasting cheese is just a slice of the delicious food heritage that you will experience at this UNESCO City of Gastronomy.