Written by Joanna Hughes

Italy boasts a rich history of cultural gastronomy. Today, it remains a mecca for foodies due to its world-famous cuisine comprising a variety of unforgettable regional dishes and recipes. And then there’s the wine. Not only is Italy regarded as one of the world’s best wine countries, it is also one of the most diverse. The takeaway for people considering careers in the food and wine industry? Italy is the place to be!

A fantasyland for foodies

Italy is home to 20 regions, each known for its distinctively delicious culinary specialties. Of the epicurean experience waiting in Italy, the Travel Channel says, “Since the cooking styles are hyper-regional, you could stumble upon very different foodie experiences in towns that are a mere 3 miles apart. To some, trying to taste the most from a region in only 3 (OK, 5) meals a day may sound daunting. To us, it sounds like an adventurous challenge.”

It’s not surprising that the country is widely recognized for its abundance of fine dining. In fact, the MICHELIN Guide Italy 2019 featured a staggering 367 starred restaurant. MICHELIN Guides international director Gwendal Poullennec asserts, “This year the 367 addresses distinguished by our teams of inspectors make a vibrant tribute to the richness and regional diversity of Italian gastronomy, which is a gastronomy of products, terroirs and authenticity. It is also fascinating to note how much the chefs and artisans at the head of these restaurants are living and evolving the Italian culinary scene, oscillating between respect for tradition and gourmet innovation.”

Indeed, as noted by Poullennec, while Italy is on the cutting-edge of the global gastronomy scene, home cooking remains at its heart. Look no further than Newsday’s recent report on Italy’s robust Le Cesarine, a private dining association which comprises hundreds of home cooks across Italy who open their homes to guests for traditional meals and local wines for an all-inclusive fee. Egeria Di Nallo, a sociology professor who started the initiative, explains, “I think it’s important for our civilization to have good food and a good experience associated with food. For me, that begins with the family.”

These are not professional restaurants or restaurateurs; rather they are often run by “cesarine”, defined by Newsday as “an old term of affection for doting Italian matriarchs.” De Nallo continues, “These are people who love to cook, and to have guests and to share. Cooking and sharing is the same.”

Between Italy’s MICHELIN star restaurants and it’s remarkable home cooking, meanwhile, are hundreds of thousands of ristorantes, bars, trattorias, osterias, tavernas, tavola caldas, pizzerias, and rosticcerias -- all wonderful places to wander into and grab a bite to eat.

The diversity of Italy’s wine rivals that of its cuisine. Joe Campanale, owner and beverage director of NYC’s Fausto raves, “What I love most about Italian wines is that, though Italians have been making wine for thousands of years, Italian producers aren’t shackled by their history. Italian winemakers are constantly trying to find rare indigenous grapes and long-forgotten regions to make wines from, which contributes to a huge variety of delicious and unique flavors. They are also some of the most progressive winemakers in the world and frequently push the boundaries for what is possible in wine. Plus, you can get better wine, dollar for dollar, in Italy than in most places around the world.”

A booming industry

Given the central place food holds in Italian culture, it’s hardly a surprise that the country’s food industry continues to thrive. According to the most recent Report on Competitiveness of the Italian Agri-Food Industry (ISMEA), the food industry is “a great resource for Italy” with 61 billion euro of added value, 1.4 million employees, more than a million companies, and 41 billion euro of export sales. ISMEA general manager Raffaele Borriello says, “The agri-food industry has emerged from a decade of economic and financial crisis with a stronger role within [the] Italian economy, with great resilient and a good ability to recover.”

There are also plenty of reasons to toast to Italy’s healthy wine industry, according to news from the country’s largest wine event, Vinitaly. And while regions like Bordeaux and Burgundy are well-known, new ones, such as Bolgheri, are also achieving prominence on the fine wine scene. To what does leading Italian wine company president Albiera Antinori attribute the region’s rise? “It was a shot in the dark: between innovation, discovering a new area, using foreign varieties. It’s a little miracle in Italy,” he told Fortune.

And more opportunities await in both industries for enterprising businesspeople. For example,  the USDA Foreign Agricultural Services’ GAIN report highlights growing demand for “Made in Italy” products which, along with the wine industry, is venturing into the arena of blockchain, artificial intelligence, the internet of things, and other innovative technologies.

Speaking of opportunities…

If playing a role in Italy’s ongoing food and wine evolution sounds intriguing to you, the Food and Wine track of Bologna Business School’s (BBS) Global MBA is the perfect fit. This full-time, 12-month, English-taught program offers a solid business foundation along with hands-on learning experiences from food and wine industry leaders, including Michelin-starred chefs, wine producers, and international managers. Students on the course, who come from many different countries, get direct contact with entrepreneurs, companies, managers, and opinion leaders in the exciting industries of food and wine, so that, compared to others trying to break into the industry, they become the cream of the crop.

Ludovica Leone, director of studies at BBS, says, “At Bologna Business School we give you a taste of the Italian food and wine experience, focusing on some of the numerous examples of excellence that are present in the country. You can meet business people, managers, and chefs who brought food and wine ‘made in Italy’ to the attention of the world. You will learn from their experiences and be given the keys to make a success out of your career. The MBA Food and Wine is designed to give you the knowledge and the skills to take the lead in the evolution of the food and wine industry.”

The Global MBA at BBS is in and of itself a boon for any aspiring food and wine business leader to gain an inside view into some of Italy’s most successful industry enterprises, but its Bologna location is the icing on the pandoro. Bologna is located in the Northeastern Italian region of Emilia-Romagna -- and Bologna was recently heralded by Vogue as “one of Italy’s best-kept secrets” and home to “some of the world’s most beloved foods.” Writer Coral Sisk raves, “In Bologna, meat-filled tortellini, tortelli, lasagna and tagliatelle al ragù rule the local culinary DNA. Lard-dotted mortadella also belongs to Bologna, but you’ll find a variety of cured meats, like prosciutto di Parma and culatello, advertised on charcuterie appetizer boards in surrounding markets. To purists, charcuterie boards are for tourists, and tortellini should be served in homemade broth, as in brodo on menus. After a visit, you’ll understand the city’s three nicknames: la grassa (the fat), la dotta (the learned) and la rossa (the red).”

In declaring the region to be the “food capital of Italy,” Forbes proposes, “This area of Northern Italy is packed with art, architecture, culture and green space -- and even most Italians admit, the region offers some of the finest foods in all of Italy.” It is not for nothing that Emilia-Romagna claimed not one but two spots on The Guardian’s roundup of the 10 best places to stay in Italy for foodies.

If you love food and wine, pursuing studies in this field is a delicious way to transform your passion into a career. We can think of no better place to do so than at BBS in Bologna.

Article written in association with Bologna Business School.

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Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.
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