Italy is submitting an application to UNESCO to add espresso to its list of items of “intangible heritage,” or those items that are representative and encapsulate the culture of countries and nations.
“In Italy, coffee is much more than a simple drink: it is an authentic ritual,” Gian Marco Centinaio, Italy’s deputy agriculture minister, said in an interview with Italian news outlet Sky TG24. “It is an integral part of our national identity and an expression of our social relationships that distinguishes us around the world.”
Last week, the Italian Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Forestry policies approved the application unanimously, and it is now subject to approval by the Italian National UNESCO Commission. After that, the application will be submitted to UNESCO headquarters to determine whether or not it makes the cut.
The bid for espresso as a heritage item was denied last year by UNESCO, in part because two separate agencies put in applications, according to the Wall Street Journal. The Consortium for the Protection of Traditional Italian Espresso Coffee applied claiming the drink represented the entire country, while the Region of Campania applied with the perspective that espresso was quintessential and indicative of solely Neapolitan culture. UNESCO advised both applicants to reconcile and reapply the following year together.
The art of espresso making would be Italy’s 16th entry onto the list of intangible heritage items. The last addition, inscribed in 2021, was truffle hunting and extraction. In 2017, the “art of the Neapolitan ‘Pizzaiuolo,’” or the practice of making Neapolitan pizza, was also recognized as a UNESCO heritage item.
“The cup of espresso represents for all Italians a social and cultural ritual that is also reflected in literature and that fascinates the whole country, from Naples to Venice to Trieste passing through Rome and Milan,” said Centinaio. “This candidacy is all the more important in this historical moment when the restrictions due to the pandemic have penalized social relations, many of which were framed by the counter or the outdoor lounge of a [coffee shop] with a good Italian coffee in front of you.”
Centinaio is confident in the approval of the application, with the verdict to come this spring.