Written by Donatella Cinelli Colombini
Great steps forward have been made in the appreciation of the value of material culture and a sort of return for those of us who live in the countryside. Believe me, with my degree in history of medieval art who has always looked upon the classification from Unesco as a means of protecting the most important expressions of human civilizations. For this reason I had always been surprised by some strange choices: in Crespi d’Adda is accepted among the world heritage sites, while Assisi, with the San Francesco convent with frescoes by Cimabue, Simone Martini and Giotto … is accepted only 5 years later. Better late than never, which is what has happened on the other hand to Naples, Palermo and Bologna.
That’s right because the Vucciria, Palazzo dei Normanni, Maschio Agioino, Capodimonte, San Petronio, the Garisenda and Asinelli towers … you would expect to be among the Unesco world heritage sites just like the Palio race, to which this prestigious acknowledgement was not conceded because of some stubbornness of the then Minister Vittoria Brambilla. Regarding positive decisions we must register that, during the past 10
years, Unesco has begun to appreciate the universal value of agricultural labour and of the farmers’ contribution in moulding the landscape. The First to interrupt the monopoly of art centres was the Val d’Orcia in the year 2000, then a few months ago the vine landscapes of the Piedmont Langhe – Roero and Monferrato and now the Zibibbo vines in Pantelleria. The Minister of the Politiche Agricole, Maurizio Martina rejoices in accepting the unanimous vote of the 161 Nations members of Unesco. <No nation, prior to Italy, has ever succeeded in registering in the List an agricultural practice>> were the comments in Paris where the decision took place.
Wonderful, a dream come true, the acknowledgement of cultural value o fan agricultural practice. We, the grape growers, become “artists of the territory”, and during centuries of collective work are able to create masterpieces. The Val d’Orcia is one of these; regardless of what (in the PIT) the architects of the Tuscan universities think and write.
The Zibibbo di Pantelleria is another such case. The grape variety is called Moscato d’Alessandria and it reached Pantelleria from North Africa with the Phoenicians. The balconies upon which the grapes are grown on the Island are of Arabian origin. The shrub
practice, different form the spurred cordon system usually used to train this vine, is useful to increase the sugar content of the grapes, the same as the drying on straw mats of the grapes, all necessary to produce this delicious desert wine called Zibibbo.
I’ll finish by stating what is written in the motivation given by Unesco regarding the acceptance of the Piemonte Langhe-Roero and Monferrato vine landscapes as a world heritage site <<The cultural landscapes of the Piedmont vineyards provide outstanding living testimony to winegrowing and winemaking traditions that stem from a long history, and that have been continuously improved and adapted up to the present day. They bear witness to an extremely comprehensive social, rural and urban realm, and to sustainable economic structures. They include a multitude of harmonious built elements that bear witness to its history and its professional practices>>. And this should shut mouths and pens, of all those who see in vineyards a decline of the landscapes.