10 years ago it was nominated as UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

Thanks to the geographic position and climate of their country, Italian have always eaten plenty of grains, fruits and vegetables, olive oil, and fish. These are integrated with poultry, dairy products, and less often with red meat. These foods are at the core of what American scientist Ancel Keys identified as the Mediterranean Diet.

However, this term describes more a regimen, a lifestyle, than a simple diet. It involves a set of skills and traditions concerning crops, fishing, and animal husbandry. But also, conservation, cooking, and particularly the sharing and consumption of food.

Indeed, eating together is the foundation of the cultural identity and continuity of Mediterranean communities.

Local markets are also important as spaces for cultivating and transmitting the Mediterranean diet during the acquisition of its main ingredients.
Keys noticed the high concentration of centenarians in southern Italy. Thus, he hypothesized that their lifestyle and a diet low in animal fat protected against heart disease. In 1958, he began studying and developing his theories in the Mediterranean area. For over 40 years in Pioppi (Salerno) forming an indissoluble bond with the local community. He was considered by locals as a fellow citizen, maybe just a little bit special.

In 2010, Italy, Cyprus, Croatia, Spain, Greece, Morocco, and Portugal nominated the Mediterranean Diet for inscription in the Representative List the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. And UNESCO enlisted it in 2013.

This precious lifestyle even has a museum dedicated to it. The Museo Vivente della Dieta Mediterranea di Pioppi (MVDM – Living Museum of the Mediterranean Diet) in Pioppi is a tribute to Keys and his work. In the exhibition, there are descriptive panels, videos, and installations dedicated to the senses. It is also possible to enter a room dedicated to homemade pasta, with video tutorials by Cilento housewives. Moreover, the Museum house Keys’ personal library, donated by the family to the local Municipality. The Museum organizes educational workshops, Cilento cooking classes, and guided tours of trails, vegetable gardens, and mills in the area. A concrete way to promote a lifestyle inspired by healthy eating, respect for the environment, and local culture.

Ilona Catani Scarlett

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