In the forefront  June 2010

Flavorful Synergies

When food is closely tied to its place of origin, as is the case in the city of Parma, it can be a major draw for tourists. Here is a look at the intersection of man, the environment, culture, technology and history.

Italians often say that one’s appetite comes from eating. (L’appetito vien mangiando.)
However, tourism can also come from eating as well. Food products that have a certified geographical origin are increasingly becoming a marketing opportunity for the tourism industry. Nowadays, products like Parmigiano Reggiano attract tourists, just the way a work of art or a beautiful landscape do.

“Food can undoubtedly be a resource for promoting tourism if it has a tie to where it comes from that strongly characterizes the product. This sort of tie to the land comes from the intersection of man, the environment, culture, technology and history,” explains Gabriele Canali, professor of agribusiness at Smea (the school of agroindustrial economy at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart of Piacenza and Cremona.)

“If, on one hand, the products have a clear identity and are hard to imitate, and on the other hand, they lend themselves to experiencing their place of origin in a special way, these products can almost become a part of the local landscape.” Or in other words, these are foods that have a context. By visiting the place where they come from, you are guaranteed to walk away with a better understanding of them.

Parma, for example, is a one such place.
Located in the heart of the Italian Food Valley, Parma is known throughout the world for its top quality food products, including, of course, Parmigiano Reggiano and Prosciutto from Parma, as well as Culatello from Zibello, Salame from Felino and porcini mushrooms from Borgotaro. Together with the music of Verdi and the masterpieces by Correggio and del Parmigianino, food is a symbol of the territory.

If it is true that the environmental conditions play a part in the quality of a product, than it is also true that a product can play a part in the local landscape. In the case of Parma, it is believed that the clouds that hover in the valleys of the Bassa Parmense help to age Culatello di Zibello and that the production of Parmigiano Reggiano leaves its mark on the territory. “The way that these products are made determine the future of the fields and alfalfa lands. They have a direct effect on the environment. In fact, alfalfa is a natural fertilizer. Alfalfa locks nitrogen in the soil and retains a large amount of organic substances that ensure the presence of carbon dioxide.”
The key word here is sustainability, a term that is being used a lot these days and that should be embraced by the tourism industry.

In Parma, for example, local food products and the territory are promoted jointly by the food museums (Musei del Cibo) that are run by the province. Museums, however, are just one step in the right direction. “Visitors, especially foreign visitors, can partake in guided tours and tasting directly at the production site.”


The network of food museums, Musei del Cibo (, in the province of Parma form a delightful roadmap for getting to know the local food culture. Funded by the provincial government, the project began in 2000 as a way to promote four of the top food products of the territory. Inside each museum, you can learn about the history, the production process and culinary uses for the products.

The Parmigiano Reggiano Museum is located inside a 19th century castle called the Rocca Meli-Lupi di Soragna.
The museum houses many fun Parmesan-related artifacts, including photos of the entire production cycle taken inside a Parma dairy in1944 by a German war correspondent.
The Prosciutto and Salumi Museum is housed in a former livestock breeding facility in Langhirano, an area known for centuries for its aged meat products. Be sure not to miss the“Ferrari of Meat Slicers”, an original, 1929 Berkel model 7 that is still in perfect working condition.  Inside the cellar of the 14 th century castle of Felino, you will find the Salame Museum. Here, there is an interesting exhibit on the culinary uses of this sausage as seen in works of art, like the Still life with salame by Giacomo Ceruti, painted in the mid-18 th century. And although tomatoes originally come from America, they have grown well in and around Parma since the mid-19 th century, justifying the creation of the Tomato Museum. The Museo del Pomodoro is located in a large Benedictine agricultural court from the 13th century in Giarola, home to the Regional Park of Taro. Keep your eyes peeled for the reconstructed tomato conserve production line, made up of 14 antique machines, including a cooper hot-water heater from the 1920s.

By Mariagrazia Villa

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“Flavorful Synergies”

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