I recently visited FICO Eataly World for a press conference regarding Luna Farm, the first farm-themed amusement park in Italy. I took advantage of this circumstance to learn more about the park and its possibilities, knowing that many of you are curious about it. I was offered a FICO tour of the most interesting areas of the park.
Luna Farm is set to open inside FICO Eataly World within the end of this year. The project is by Zamperla Group, which already manages Luna Park in Coney Island and Victorian Gardens in Central Park.
Park visitors will have the opportunity to experience 15 themed attractions, all indoors. There will be for example flying pigs, bulls bumper-cars, hens crazy bus, a honey factory ride. Some of them will include the use of augmented and interactive reality. Much attention is also given to inclusivity and accessibility (7 rides accessible).
I loved very much the mascots (pig, bee, bull, and rooster). And also the Manifesto of Fun, with 10 points like: “At Luna Farm, there are no adults, only overgrown kids” or “Fun has no nationality, sex or color”. Well, can’t wait for the inauguration!
Thanks to Elisa, who accompanied me, I learned a lot of stuff about mortadella, Grana Padano, Parmigiano, and other excellent Italian food products. Let’s see if I can sum it all up. Of course, I won’t tell you everything, so that you can still enjoy a guided tour when you go visit the park.
Mortadella Bologna PGI experience
I could get a close look at how the mortadella is made, according to the traditional recipe. I watch the operator while he was bagging and then binding the mortadella. This operation, apparently easy, requires years of expertise to avoid the formation of air bubbles. And it can only be made by hand.
Then there’s the cooking phase in special dry air stoves since the mortadella must not be aged like salami. The core of the meat must reach 70°C (158°F). That’s why also pregnant women can eat it. After the cooking period, there’s the showering and then the cooling phase.
I also learned some anecdotes. For example, in 1661, cardinal Farnese issued a document that codified the production of mortadella. He basically provided one of the first examples in history of a food production regulation similar to the current DOP or PGI ones.
Grana Padano DOP
Grana Padano dates back to the year 1000, thanks to some monks that wanted to conserve somehow surplus milk. So they started cooking it, adding rennet and salting it. The current production area includes several regions of northern Italy: Piemonte, Lombardia, Trentino, Veneto (except Belluno), and some provinces of Emilia Romagna: Ferrara, Bologna, Forlì-Cesena, Ravenna, Rimini, and Piacenza. Inside FICO, you have the chance to learn more about its production.
Cows are milked twice a day. The milk collected is partially skimmed by natural surface skimming. Then it is placed inside cooking cauldrons with a 1000 liters capacity (246 gal). Each cauldron produces 2 wheels of cheese. So, 500 liters for 1 wheel (132 gal). Then the whey is added to trigger the transformation into cheese. At this point, the milk must cook at 31-33°C (88-91°F). And then the rennet is added. While the cooking continues to reach 53-56°C (127-136°F), the curd must be broken with a giant whisk.
After a resting period, the mass is raised and cut into 2 parts. The two future wheels are wrapped in linen clothes and placed on a shelf inside a mould. It’s now time to engrave the wheels with the marks of origin and the ID code. Two days later, the salting starts. Soaked in a saline solution, wheels must rest for 16-25 days. Later, after drying for a few hours, the wheels mature in a warehouse for a minimum of 9 months (to more than 20).
After this period, the cheese wheels must pass some tests to gain the DOP label. The most peculiar and traditional is the small hammer. Only great experts can detect possible defects by tapping the cheese surface with a small hammer.
Parmigiano Reggiano DOP
Parmigiano Reggiano DOP history is similar to that of the Grana Padano: first produced by monks in the Middle Ages (around 1200). Its production area is much more limited. It includes, in fact, the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, and some areas of Mantua and Bologna. FICO, despite being in the Bologna district, is outside the Parmigiano area of production. So there’s no factory here. But you can see the wheels, learn more about the cheese thanks to some multimedia workstations (or with a FICO tour) and of course, buy it.
Cows are milked in the evening. The skimmed milk from the night before is poured into copper cauldrons. Then calf rennet and fermented whey are added. When the milk coagulates, the curd must be broken down into minuscule granules. And the cooking process begins. Then, after resting, the mass is removed, cut into 2 parts, wrapped in a linen cloth and placed in a mould.
After a few hours, the cheese is engraved with a number, the month and year of production and later immersed in a solution of water and salt. After this, the cheese wheels must mature in a warehouse. The minimum aging time is 12 months. But it can go up to 8 years and beyond. Only after the examination of the Consortium experts, the wheels are fire-branded with the PDO mark. At FICO I could see a wheel dating back to August 2003.
Campofilone is a village of Le Marche region, famous for the production of egg pasta, above all the maccheroncini. La Campofilone is a farmhouse where the owners produce not only the pasta but also all the raw materials needed. The production method grants a product which is easily digestible and with a low glycemic index. They’re now trying to obtain the pgi denomination. At FICO, you can eat their pasta, and also join a pasta-making class.
Pastificio Di Martino
Di Martino here at FICO offers a street-food version of its world-famous Gragnano pasta PGI. Gragnano pasta is made of semolina. The color is rather clear. Cause this pasta is produced in a slow way, without caramelizing the starch. Let’s just say that other pasta factories caramelize the starch, in order to speed up the process. This procedure is counter-productive for the consumers though. It provokes, in fact, a high glycemic peek after the ingestion. So, Gragnano pasta is healthier.
Furthermore, it is produced with bronze wire-drawing. This avoids a second caramelization, and plus the pasta remains rougher (and that’s better to retain the sauce). If you come here, you’ll be charmed by the beautiful packages created by Dolce and Gabbana packages. I bought some, and it was kind of hard to open them… so cute!
Le Terre del Balsamico Balsamic vinegar
Here you can taste and buy both Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PGI and Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena and Reggio Emilia DOP.
The pgi one is formed by 2 ingredients: must and wine vinegar. Always check the ingredients list: there can’t be a third ingredient. Aging is a minimum of 2 months, a maximum of 3 years.
The DOP has only 1 ingredient: must. An amount of 100 kg of grapes passes from barrel to barrel (smaller and smaller until the vinegar reaches the smallest one). Minimum aging is 12 years. But it can reach 25 years. Think that a family of producers basically extracts 20 small bottles per year. In the Modena area, there’s still the custom to donate as dowry gift a vinegar barrels batch for the birth of a baby girl.
Pay also attention to the shape of the bottles, which is lovely, by the way. They seem like magic potion jars.
Balocco is one of the most known panettone and mandorlato (nougat) producers in Italy. Its story dates back to 1903, when the founder had a simple shop in his hometown, Fossano in Piedmont. Now they have a 70.000 square meter plant and export their products in 67 countries. At FICO you can watch the production area through a glass but also attend a workshop to prepare cookies and mini panettone.
Confetti di Sulmona
William Di Carlo produces sugared almonds in Sulmona (L’Aquila) since 1833. In Italy, we call them “confetti“, while those you call confetti are actually coriàndoli. Confetti accompany every beautiful event in Italy, like weddings and christenings. At FICO you can learn the secrets of these delicious sweets and also create your own confetti bouquet.
And learn curious facts. For example, the master will give the exact recipe of confetti to just one of his apprentices, the most promising one. The others know the procedure, but not the precise amount of each ingredient. I also tasted the first kind of confetti ever produced, the so-called cannellino, beloved by poet Leopardi. It is a sugar-coated cinnamon bark.
During the FICO tour, Elisa told me other stories and gave me lots of interesting information. But I don’t want to spoil all the fun for you. I had a great time and I’d love to go back to learn more. I’m never tired of learning, especially if there’s food involved. 😉
If you want to learn more about FICO, go to my previous post:Fico Eataly World