My foodie friends, have you ever desired to learn how to make the perfect pizza? Or to see how cheese is produced? Then stop for lunch in a kiosk selling the best porchetta panino and finally buy your favourite Italian specialities from Emilia Romagna, Veneto, Sicily or Tuscany… all in one place? Yes? Well, Fico Eataly World is the place for you!
Fico Eataly World is the first “food themed park” in the world. The 10 hectares park is located near Bologna and it will open to the public in two days, on November 15 at 4.30 pm. The project involved about 2.000 Italian companies and provided 3.000 new jobs.
The visitor has the chance to discover Italian biodiversity, learn more about our agriculture and farming traditions, take a look at our food processing methods, taste our specialities and buy them.
Fico is in fact the only place in the whole world that presents all the stages of Italian food chain: agriculture, farming, food processing, food service, food market and also food knowledge and learning.
I was invited to a preview tour of the park, in the presence of its founders Andrea Segré and Oscar Farinetti. I was amazed by the size of the project. By chance, I also met Joe Bastianich, the Masterchef judge. Here’s our photo together (you probably have already seen it in my social profiles).
What does Fico mean?
Fico is an acronym for Fabbrica Italiana Contadina (Italian Farming Factory). It’s also a word pun. Fico in Italian means fig, the fruit, but it also means cool or handsome.
Pronunciation of Fico
Fico in Italian is pronounced FEE-koh!
What will you find at Fico Eataly World?
- 40 Farming factories. Among them: prosciutto, mortadella, grana padano, milk, pasta, panettoni and cookies, gelato, coffee, candies, honey, chocolate, wine, oil, beer.
- 2 hectares of open fields with 2000 plants and cultivars (cereals, aromatic herbs, vegetables, legumes, fruits, berries, truffles, olive grove, vineyard, etc)
- Stables with 200 animals, representing different Italian breeds.
- 45 different food spots: from a Michelin starred restaurant to street food kiosks (pizzeria, vegetarian/vegan, seafood, truffle bistrot, gnocco fritto, focaccia, piadina, mortadella bar, pastry shop, etc)
- Deli shops of all kinds.
- A marketplace where to buy specialities from all the Italian regions and design kitchenware.
- A post office to send parcels of goods in Italy and abroad.
- 6 didactic rooms, called giostre (carousels), where you can learn more about the relationship between 6 topics: Man and Fire, Man and Animals, Man and Earth, Man and Sea, Man: From Soil to Bottle, Man and Future. Each room is provided with some interactive spots. Particularly funny was the one in the Man and Animal room, where I found out I’m tall as 4 chickens, 3 rabbits and a snail. I think I’m taller though. But maybe it was only for kids, and I intruded like always.
- A theatre and a cinema.
- A convention centre (1000 places).
- An area for kids to play while the parents can do their business.
- A sports area with beach volley court, some gymnastics tools and an Italian shaped miniature golf (which I wanted to try!).
- CEFA, a project to help develop apiculture in Africa.
- An area for truffles hunting demonstrations with Labrador dogs.
- A foundation promoting knowledge, informed consumption and sustainable production of food.
Is Fico Eataly World entrance for free?
Yes. The entrance is free.
From Monday to Sunday, from 10 am to midnight.
How to move around?
Since the park is quite big, visitors will have the chance to move around by bike. 500 three wheeled bike provided with shopping basket are available. They’re free (you only have to give your ID card at the desk (at the entrance).
How to get to Fico Eataly world?
Other than by car (there are large parking lots), there is a bus line connecting the park to Bologna Centrale train station.
Workshops and guided tours
If you want to discover the park with a guided tour (15€ fee), you can be accompanied by a so called Biodiversity Ambassador, showing and explaining to you all the highlights of the park.
At Fico Eataly World you can also attend about 20 interesting workshops (these require a fee, of course) for kids and adults. For example “The making of sorbetto”, “Farming formaggio”, “A passion for pizza”, “The life of bees”.
My visit was just a short preview tour to see what people can expect from November 15 on.
I tried the didactic rooms, I tasted some food, all delicious: arrosticino from Abruzzo, a piece of focaccia from Turin, a small piece of piadina romagnola, a little panino with mortadella, a Venchi chocolate praline (with a new tasting system to understand one’s feelings while eating), a mandarin sherbet to die for, a mini Sicilian cannolo. And I went home with an extra virgin olive oil bottle. Small but precious loot!
Through glass walls, I could also look at people and machine working to produce panettone, gelato, milk and other products.
I took a lot of photos, I spoke with lots of people at the different stands or shops.
The press conference explained all the features of the park.
Then we had the chance to see some of the productions at work. For example, how to make a chocolate bar or a fruit sherbet.
“How does it feel to you?”
After my experience the other day, I was asked this question by a reader. Well, it’s not easy to answer.
I liked the experience. I love the idea to get to a place and have the opportunity to try and taste many different thing, to see people at work, to attend workshops, to buy products from all the Italian regions. You know that I’m an enthusiast. I like to try new things, especially if food related. And I can confirm, everything I tasted was excellent. If the quality is this level, I can’t but be very happy with it.
Yes, the presence of a minigolf course, a beachvolley court, the so called carousels and many different kiosks and shops with hundreds of different products can give the idea of a food fun fair. But I like fun fairs, so maybe I’m biased.
I admit, it was also fun for me. It’s a totally different sensation from the one you feel when visiting a single traditional food factory or a farm. Nevertheless, at Fico farming, processing and production really take place. It’s not only an exhibition.
Plus, many big companies in Italy are already very far from being small traditional spots. There’s a huge difference between (just to name one) Barilla factory and a small agriturismo were the ladies of the house make their own fresh pasta.
The companies you can find at Fico are big entities in Italy, with modern and big factories already. Here in Fico, you can find their branches. Balocco for example presents a highly automated factory at Fico. It has nothing to do with a farm. The smallest one that joined the project, probably just sent some of their products to be sold at the market. This is only a new selling opportunity for them.
Tradition, progress, business
In Italy we’re always very sceptical about this kind of initiatives. But I think that value and business can coexist. Moreover, I think that Fico and other more traditional activities and locations can live along with each other. They are two totally different thing.
I can go visit Fico, because I know that it displays a lot of different aspects of Italian food market. I can attend a workshop, buy some excellent products, try a particular restaurant.
But I will always go visit the little farm where a particular cheese is produced, getting to know the people who have been working there for years. Or an agriturismo, where the family produces and sell a small amount of extra virgin olive oil.
It’s a completely different experience. The one does not exclude the other. They have different value and different implications. It’s like going at the grand hotel or at a family run b&b.
A chance also for Italians
Many Italians, especially younger generations, love Mac Donald’s, I loved it too when I was 17. Some Italians never buy at local markets, never visit a prosciutto factory. A lot of Italians ignore how a particular food is produced or have never seen a lady preparing fresh pasta. Fico can be a chance for everyone to better understand our food tradition, to taste new things, to eat “local fast food” and to live a different day with their family.
A person can go to Fico and go also to a small farm. Or no. Maybe a person that goes to Fico would never go to a farm anyway. So, there’s room for everyone, and a public for everything. Right?
One thing I know for sure is that the culture of food should be a resource for my country.
In conclusion, I liked Fico Eataly World and I think that I will surely go back again to try other things and join some workshops. But I will never stop exploring also little and more traditional spots around and about Italy.