Celebration of Italian food resembles a US-style mega-mart
Italy’s ‘City of Food’ has a new attraction – a theme park dedicated to food on the outskirts of Bologna. Fico Eataly World opened a month ago, inaugurated by the prime minister and now welcoming busloads of visitors.
Food from all over Italy is on show at Eataly, which claims to be the world’s biggest agri-food park and promises visitors “a discovery of all the wonders of Italian biodiversity” under one vast 100,000sqm roof.
But, the Guardian newspaper reports, “many are struggling to make sense of a project that stands in direct contrast to the traditional allure of Italian gastronomy – the pleasure of meandering the farmers’ markets in Renaissance town squares, or sampling the delights of small producers in remote hilltop towns.”
By contrast, Eataly resembles a US-style mega-mart, where more than 45 branded Italian eateries do their best to educate consumers on food production, from olive oil to sugared almonds.
Countless pop-up stores sell Italian produce and kitchenware, and there are six experiential educational pavilions, a number of classrooms, sports and play areas, a cinema and a 1,000-capacity congress zone. Outside are several hectares of farm animals and vegetable plots.
Fico, the organisation behind Eataly, stands for Fabbrica Italiana Contadina (Italian Farming Factory) and unites Bologna’s mayor, Virginio Merola, and Oscar Farinetti, who has already launched the successful Eataly food hall brand, which is big in Italy, the US and Asia.
The €120 million project took four years to complete, involves over 150 Italian companies and has created over 3,000 jobs. It aims to lure 6 million visitors a year and represents a big boost to tourism in the area.