Italy’s earthquake-hit towns are bidding for Unesco status

Italy will be putting forward two bids for Unesco World Heritage status from the central Italian region devastated by recent earthquakes, the national Unesco committee said on Monday.

Italy's earthquake-hit towns are bidding for Unesco status
File photo of the prized black truffles: Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP

In the running for the prestigious recognition are the 'truffle culture' of Norcia, Umbria, which was one of the worst hit towns in last year's quakes, and a religious festival from l'Aquila, a town still recovering from a deadly tremblor in 2009.

Before the earthquake, Norcia was a town little known outside Italy, except among in-the-know foodies, who celebrated it for its ham and truffles as well as the picturesque scenery.

The regional councillor for Culture and Tourism, Antonella Parigi, said Monday's announcement was “great news for one of the excellent products of our territory”.

Black truffles thrive in Norcia's hills and warm climate, and the 'black diamonds' are celebrated in the town's annual fair, Nero Norcia. 

Comprising markets, tastings and other events revolving around the truffles and other local culinary produce, the fair dates back more than 60 years. Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni attended the 2017 edition, which went ahead despite ongoing recovery efforts in the town.

According to figures from agricultural organization Coldiretti, the region's truffle industry is worth half a billion euros annually.

However, the series of earthquakes in 2016 left the town's agricultural sector suffering from huge losses of revenue and livestock.

Italy's Unesco committee unanimously voted in favour of submitting the bid from Norcia, along with one from nearby l'Aquila.

L'Aquila is seeking Unesco recognition for its Perdonanza Celestiniana festival; a historic tradition which commemorates Pope Celestine V granting an indulgence to pilgrims visiting the Santa Maria di Collemaggio church on the anniversary of his papal coronation. 

The pope's body is still kept at the basilica, with some saying the fact his remains were undamaged by the quake was a 'miracle'.

The two bids have been submitted to the Unesco committee in Paris, where they will be reviewed by the end of 2018, with a decision expected the following year.

Italy already boasts more Unesco heritage sites than any other country, with 51 to its name – a number so high that it didn't bother to bid for any more last year, to give other countries a chance to catch up.

READ ALSO: Five Italian Unesco sites you won't have heard of

Five Italian Unesco sites you won't have heard of
Photo: Pit56/Flickr

Its heritage sites range from entire cities such as Florence and Venice, to cathedrals, castles and ancient ruins.

In 2016, Italy announced it had prepared a dossier to get Neapolitan pizza added to Unesco's Intangible Cultural Heritage List, and earlier this year, it announced a bid to get Unesco status for its Prosecco hills, where the famous drink is made.

READ ALSO: Why Italy wants Unesco status for its Prosecco hills

Why Italy wants Unesco heritage status for its Prosecco hills
hoto: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

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La Bella Vita: Exploding myths about Italian food and how to make words smaller

From making sense of Italian grammar to understanding what's seen as 'authentic' Italian food, our weekly newsletter La Bella Vita offers you an essential starting point for eating, talking, drinking and living like an Italian.

La Bella Vita: Exploding myths about Italian food and how to make words smaller

La Bella Vita is our regular look at the real culture of Italy – from language to cuisine, manners to art. This new newsletter will be published weekly and you can receive it directly to your inbox, by going to newsletter preferences in ‘My Account’ or follow the instructions in the newsletter box below.

*If you signed up for La Bella Vita newsletter but did not receive it this week please email [email protected]

Everyone in Italy is talking about Italian food this week. Not unusual, I know. But this time, it’s mainly because the government has announced plans to put Italian food forward for Unesco intangible cultural heritage status. This led many people to ask exactly which dishes would be included in the bid – and how exactly do you define ‘Italian food’, anyway?

One highly influential and controversial contribution to this debate came in the form of an interview published in the Financial Times with Italian food historian Alberto Grandi, who “has dedicated his career to debunking the myths around Italian food”. In it, Grandi made bold claims including that panettone and tiramisù were postwar inventions which relied on industrial processes or ingredients; carbonara is more American than Italian; and pizza was unknown in most parts of Italy before the 1970s.

It’s safe to say these ideas didn’t go down well at all with most Italians. In the below article, reporter Silvia Marchetti explains why the interview caused such a big public outcry and why she believes such claims ignore “millennia of rich food heritage”.

Why claims Italian cuisine is a ‘modern invention’ have angered Italy

Whatever you think of Grandi’s argument that the popular idea of Italian cuisine today is based chiefly on postwar advertising and political propaganda, there’s one thing everyone can probably agree on: there really are an awful lot of misconceptions out there about what constitutes traditional or authentic Italian cuisine.

Here are a few such ideas that you’ve probably encountered, and a look at why they can be safely discarded:

Four myths about ‘traditional’ Italian food you can stop believing

Neapolitan pizza. Is there any truth to claims that pizza was unknown in most of Italy until the 1970s? Photo by Nik Owens on Unsplash

And if you’re in Italy at the moment, have you noticed that things feel a little different lately?

Not only are the days brighter, but once the temperatures rise over 15C towns and cities seem to burst back to life after being (slightly) quieter over winter. Aperitivo hour moves outside, there are more motorini zipping up and down the streets, and there’s a spring-cleaning frenzy as homes are cleaned from top to bottom and wardrobes overhauled in preparation for la bella stagione.

Here are some of the sure-fire signs that spring has arrived in Italy:

Eight signs that spring has arrived in Italy

Easter is coming up and it is of course a very important celebration in overwhelmingly Catholic Italy, marked across the country by countless processions and events, plenty of good food, and hopefully some good weather too. Here’s a rundown of everything to expect during an Italian Easter:

The essential guide to Easter in Italy

One thing that makes Italian such a beautiful – and complicated – language is the large number of different suffixes which tack on to the ending of words and change their meaning. A common type is the diminutive suffix, which is the type of word ending that makes a thing smaller, or maybe cuter (think gattino, libricino, or fiorellino).

But as pretty as they sound, these endings don’t always seem to have much logic behind them. Here’s what you need to know about ‘shrinking’ Italian words.

Etto, ino, ello: How to make Italian words smaller

Remember if you’d like to have this weekly newsletter sent straight to your inbox you can sign up for it via Newsletter preferences in “My Account”.

Is there an aspect of the Italian way of life you’d like to see us write more about on The Local? Please email me at [email protected]