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The Italian Food Valley

What is it, and where is it?

Located between the pointed peaks of the Alps and the green slopes of the Apennines, there is a vast plain created by the gentle waters of the great Po River, the largest in Italy.
To the west you will find the farmlands of Piedmont and Lombardy, the land of rice fields and pastures; while to the east the Po River delta fans open before it joins the Adriatic Sea. At the center of this expansive territory, covered with rows of trees and streams, tended to like a garden, you will find the Italian Food Valley.
The fertility of the land, ancient traditions and entrepreneurial spirit of its inhabitants have given birth to incredible food products.

Amos Nattini, Agricoltura parmense, 1946, Collezioni d'arte CariparmaIn the province of Parma and nearby Reggio Emilia and Modena, you can find many of the best local salumi, Parmigiano Reggiano, pastas and vegetable preserves in all of Italy. Parma has always been considered the capital of the area, with its culinary specialties that are known throughout the world.

Since the Roman Age, there has been a demand and an appreciation for aged prosciutto from Parma. During the High Middle Ages, the Benedictine monks started producing Parmigiano Reggiano and it is still made the same way today. Beginning in the 19th century, Parma became the center of an industrialized food industry, thanks to the mechanical companies located in the region and the extensive network of steam-powered trams. In fact, there were over 110 miles of tracks, connecting the major production sites of the city to the national railway and river port of the Po. And in 1877, a small bread store opened named Barilla, today the world’s leading industrial pasta producer and Europe’s leading baked-goods producer.

In the 20th century, the Parma also became home to the Stazione Sperimentale delle Conserve Alimentari, (or Experimental Station of Food Conservation), the Food Conservation Fair, a precursor to today’s Cibus – the International Food Fair – and the many Consortiums created to protect local products like Parmigiano Reggiano, Prosciutto di Parma and Culatello di Zibello.

And to further Parma’s fame as a food capital, the city was selected in 2003 to be home to the headquarters of the EFSA, European Food Safety Authority.

Food as Culture: an artistic tour of Parma