FICO Eataly World- A foodie heaven in Bologna
Disneyland for foodies. That’s an accurate description of FICO Eataly World, Italy’s latest and largest food attraction, which opened on November 15, 2017, just outside Bologna, Italy.
What is FICO Eataly World?
FICO stands for Fabbrica Italiana Contadina (Italian factory farm); the name is a play on words, because fico in Italian means “fig” and in slang means “cool”. The full name is FICO Eataly World, as food lovers know Eataly better than the Italian language. Eataly is the farm-to-table purveyor of Italian edibles that opened in Turin in 2007, and currently spans 40 locations around the world. FICO is like Eataly on steroids: more space, more merchandising, more money.
The founder of both is Oscar Farinetti, a marketing wunderkind. Not coincidentally, he professed his admiration for Disneyland in a speech before the park’s official opening.
Largest Agri-Food Park in the World
Eataly claims to be the “largest agri-food park in the world”, whatever that means. Sprawling over 100,000 square meters, with botanical gardens, 200 different species of farm animals, 40 restaurants, 40 farming operations, six multimedia “experiences”, six classrooms, 100 shops, a miniature golf course, a thousand-seat conference center, a nursery, a bookstore, and a bike path through the complex (with free three-wheeled bicycles provided), it definitely feels like a Hollywood version of what a foodie might love about Italy rather than an authentic farm experience.
An Apple Wonderland
The entrance to the park encompasses a display of 12,000 apples. Why not figs? Because, explains Farinetti, there are 1200 varieties of apple in Europe, and 1,000 of these are found in Italy. The country’s bravura in the kitchen begins at the farm, and that is a concept he hopes every visitor to FICO will take away. “Most people talk about food by focusing on chefs,” he notes, “while we want to put the emphasis on the beginning, with the farmers.”
Plan your visit to FIC Eataly World
The park charges no entrance fee, but remember to bring your wallet. Better still: plan and pay for your edutainment experiences ahead of time, online. FICO Eataly World expects six million visitors its first year: that is 10,000 people a day, so advance planning is advisable and remember to book your hotel room far in advance.
Classes and Courses at FICO Eataly World
Start with a one-hour orientation tour of the park guided by a Biodiversity Ambassador (€ 15). Sign up for courses and workshops covering dozens of subjects. Three different classes on pasta making. Three on sweets. Making cheese. The life of bees. Food photography. Home gardening. Brewing Italian beer. Most last an hour and cost € 20 per person. A few are longer and more expensive, such as recognizing fruit trees (four hours, € 60) and making your first gelato (1.5 hours, € 65). A two-hour course on creativity in agriculture has been designed specifically for children (€ 20). There is even a one-hour Zumba class (€ 10) to help you assuage your guilt about all that food.
The six multimedia experiences each cost € 2 a person. A packet of all six costs € 10 if purchased online. The themes are: man and fire; man and earth; man from soil to bottle; man and sea; man and animals; man and future. They include informative panels of information, interactive games and quizzes, video clips, short films, and sensorial adventures like planting a real seed in a hydroponic farm and tracking its growth weeks later by computer with video.
The Food at FICO Eataly World
The food stands will remind guests of Eataly, only bigger and more elaborate. A Slow Food philosophy permeates the atmosphere: think Salone del Gusto held in Turin every two years. One big difference is that Slow Food showcases small suppliers who don’t have the funds to market themselves, while FICO’s stands are international brands with large marketing budgets, such as Venchi, Lavazza, Poretti.
FICO Eataly Farm
Among FICO’s freebies are visits to its menagerie of dairy cows, beef cattle, pigs, sheep, goats, donkeys, horses, rabbits, and geese. Two hundred different species of animals have been divided by category (cows, pigs, etc.), then those of the same species have been put together in enclosures and had to learn to get along. A guide confided that while the pigs were chill and the cows mellow, it took a long time for the various species of sheep to accommodate each other.
This 20,000 square-meter section is sure to be a crowd-pleaser for children, though well-traveled visitors will observe the limited space allocated for these animals. The horses and cattle especially are extremely confined, and our guide hastened to assure us that they are brought out to larger quarters on a daily basis.
Positioned near the animal stalls are displays of old farm equipment and information about them. The objective is for visitors to remember the past as well as plan for the future. Other displays remind guests that crops should be consumed at specific times of the year, and that food waste affects everyone. The lessons never end at FICO. Neither does the food.
FICO Eataly World Information:
To plan your day at FICO, start with www.eatalyworld.it/en.
The park is open daily from 10 am to midnight, with ample parking and a shuttle bus that runs regularly between the Bologna train station and the park, and between Bologna’s Marconi Airport and the park. www.eatalyworld.it/en/how-to-get-here
Book your hotel room well in advance! Here are our recommendations on where to stay in Bologna.
FICO Eataly World – A Foodie Heaven in Bologna was written by Claudia Flisi. Her stay was organized and sponsored by FICO. Photographs provided by FICO Press Office.
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