A Celebration of Italian Culinary Traditions and Excellence

Edited by Anna Popper

The 8th edition of the “Week of Italian Cuisine in the World” was held this year from 13 to 19 November 2023. As part of the new project, launched in 2016 at the initiative of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, over 9,500 events have been organised so far in more than 100 countries to promote the Italian agri-food chain and the famous Italian food and wine tradition abroad. Italian cuisine provides good examples of how to eat healthily while maintaining the pleasure of delicious food.

This year’s event has the main theme “At the table with Italian cuisine: well-being with taste” (“A tavola con la cucina italiana: il benessere con gusto”), to emphasize the connection between the Mediterranean diet, synonymous with a healthy, high-quality diet, and well-being as a correct and healthy lifestyle.

Given the importance of sports diplomacy as a tool for enhancing Italy abroad, the 2023 edition has also included this dimension in the promotional activities.

To inaugurate this thematic week, a Sports Nutrition Seminar on the topic “Food, Sport and Well-being – the role of a balanced diet and exercise” was organised on the 13th November at the Hungarian University of Sports Sciences (MTSE) by the ICE – Italian Trade Agency of Budapest led by its Director, Mrs. Giovanna Chiappini Carpena, and the Italian Embassy in Hungary, in collaboration with the University of Gastronomic Sciences of Pollenzo from Italy and the Sports Nutrition Centre of MTSE, represented by Director Dr. Margita Szilágyi-Utczás.

The event was hosted by Dr. Zsolt Radák, Vice-Rector of the Scientific and Innovation Department of MTSE, opened by H.E. Mr. Manuel Jacoangeli, Ambassador of the Republic of Italy to Hungary and Mr. Norbert Madaras, President of the National Water Polo Association, former player, two-time Olympic Champion and two-time World Champion, who spent a successful decade with Italian powerhouse Pro Recco. The Institute of Italian Culture in Budapest was represented by its Director, Mr. Gabriele La Posta.

Dr. Gabriella Morinirepresenting the University of Gastronomic Sciences of Pollenzo, opened the professional seminar with a presentation entitled “Plant Food-Derived Bioactive Components and their Potential Health Benefits”.

This was followed by lectures of expert teachers and nutritionists, who piqued the interest of the audience, consisting of trainers, professional athletes with Italian sport connections and guests from various sectors.

Participants had the opportunity to taste some of the most famous and beloved Italian agri-food products, including true icons such as focaccia, Parma ham, Parmigiano Reggiano, extra virgin olive oil and Bronte pistachios. These gastronomic treasures are characteristic elements of the Mediterranean diet given their notable benefits, such as Parmigiano Reggiano, which improves the efficiency of our immune system, or extra virgin olive oil, which plays an important role in cardiovascular health. Thanks to the union of taste and health, these Italian products continue to win the hearts of lovers of “good cuisine” all over the world, where quality prevails over quantity.

To conclude the seminar, the Pollenzo Food Lab organised a cooking show with tasting, allowing over 100 guests – professionals, students and representatives of the press – to taste some excellent dishes of Italian gastronomy, including Ribollita, a traditional centuries-old Tuscan soup, and Risotto alla Zucca.

Italian cuisine is known and very popular all around the world for its delicious flavours, fresh ingredients and simple yet elegant preparations. The cuisine of Italy is an incredibly diverse and complex collection of regional cuisines, each of its 20 regions has own unique culinary traditions, products and techniques.

The week-long event included a series of presentations and round tables, accompanied by food tastings, with the participation of leading Italian and Hungarian university professors, researchers and nutrition experts, as well as sportsmen on the different aspects of environmentally conscious eating, with particular attention to some of the most well-known healthy ingredients of the Mediterranean diet, such as Parma ham, Parmigiano Reggiano, extra virgin olive oil and pistachios.

The programs of the Week of Italian Cuisine in the World, dedicated to the Italian gastronomy, offered an opportunity to present the candidacy of “Italian Cuisine” for inclusion in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO, initiated and promoted by the competent Italian ministries, the Italian Academy of Cucina, the Casa Artusi Foundation and the historic magazine La Cucina Italiana.

The seminar in Budapest aimed to spread knowledge of the beneficial effects and quality of Italian cuisine’s food and wine products and falls within the scope of the ICE mission to spread and consolidate Made in Italy throughout the world.

With a share of 5.3%, Italy ranks eighth among Hungary’s supplier countries in the agri-food sector and exported food and drink products worth 401 million euros in 2022, with an increase of 14, 5% compared to the previous year. The main categories include meat products, coffee, extra virgin olive oil, pasta and cheese.

The objective of the Week of Italian Gastronomy in the World 2023 is to convey to young generations and the sports profession the importance of the Mediterranean diet and the Italian gastronomic and wine tradition. Finally, the event increasingly seeks to involve institutional partners, professional associations and industry players at an international level, and also offers an excellent opportunity, on one hand, to promote Italian gastronomic and wine products and their history and, on the other hand, to present the values of Italian regions, thus contributing to increase Italy’s tourist attraction.

Sources: Italian Embassy in Budapest, and ICE – Italian Trade Agency of Budapest

Photos by ICE and DPA