Delicious Bologna (1)

Recently I spent a weekend in Bologna in order to prepare myself for upcoming food trips to this delicious city. I had been to Bologna before, but it was necessary to update my list of must-see (food) shops, bars and restaurants and to visit the newly opened FICO Eataly world.

Going from Milano to Bologna is peanuts thanks to the large number of high-speed trains that bring you to Bologna Stazione Centrale in just over an hour. From there it is just a 15 minute walk to the city’s historic center or a 20 minute bus ride to Fico Bologna, the world’s biggest agri-food park that opened in November 2017. The last one is the topic of this first blog. In a few days, I will publish the article about a day in Bologna.

First some history. In 2007, Oscar Farinetti, son of a big entrepreneur selling domestic electronics, opened his first store called Eataly. In these ‘supermarkets’ one can find high-quality Italian products. The idea behind this food retail is to make high-quality products accessible to all and to give the visitors a complete food experience, including the consumption in one of the restaurants hosted in the Eataly stores.

The dream from Farinetti came true, thanks to collaborations with amongst others Slow Food and COOP. The supermarkets are very popular and in ten years, it has grown to have 40 stores all over the world, with more new openings planned for this year. But he wanted more and thus decided to open FICO Eataly world in Bologna. After years of preparations in the end of 2017 FICO opened and finally could “tell the world about the excellence of Italian food and wines”. The side hosts over 200 animals and 2000 cultivars and in the 40 farming factories one can see how different ingredients are transformed into cheeses, sauces, pasta, chocolate, ecc. And off course one can enjoy all these delicacies in one of the 40 food points divided between restaurants and kiosks.

After following the construction phase, thanks to weekly newsletters I received for months, and reading different opinions about it in the press, I was excited to go there and see it all for myself. I arrived there without any serious preparations and without any prejudices on the experience that expected me there. After a short hunt for a printed map of the premises, we started to explore this agri-food park. To avoid dressing-up and undressing again, we (my husband and newborn accompanied me) started the outside tour of the stables and fields. Here one finds different breeds of cows, pigs, goats, sheep, horses, donkeys and chicken. Each of them accompanied by a small explanation of its origins, its use (milk or power) and its habitat. The animals have lots of space here and as the number of visitors was limited, (we visited on a weekday) they seemed to be free of stress. However, I wonder how happy they will on a busy day with hundreds of children running around.

Once we had seen most of the outside activities, we entered the building arriving immediately in the area of the sweets. Here one can have a coffee, watch how ice cream is made or participate to a workshop in which you can make your favorite chocolate bar. All lot’s of fun, but some planning is requested as most of the events and workshops that take place in FICO happen only once a day. So it is best to arrive prepared and if you aren’t prepared, then start your visit at the information desk and ask them what workshops have still availability. Because I believe that the best way to experience FICO is to actively do something.

After a late coffee break, we looked around and started to orientate ourselves for lunch options. Practically one has two possibilities: one goes either to one of the (thematic) restaurants where one is seated and served to enjoy a typical Italian dish or one decides to order something at one of the kiosks. What you choose depends mainly on your interest and just a little bit on your budget, as prices do not differ a lot. Most food places are centered around the Decumano (yes, this reminds us of Expo Milano 2015!) so it is easy to first investigate where to go and then make your decision. What I think can be improved, is the availability of seats and tables in a common space that allow families to enjoy food bought at different kiosks.

We finished the day in the wine and beer department, just before the food market and the exit. The choice of wines, beers and other alcoholics is really impressive and because of its dense use of the space it was maybe the most beautiful part of the whole exhibit. I really felt surrounded by food there and because of the colorful shelves filled with bottles, I did not feel lost in space. Actually I wished I could stay a bit longer.

To make a long story short, I do think FICO Eataly world is worth a visit. Especially when you combine it with a trip to Bologna, the city of food. I hope many people decide to go there as it needs to be become a bit more lively it one has more the idea of being in a ‘market’ where one can both see how food is grown and processed, buy it and consume freshly prepared dishes.

In a few day’s you can read my impression of Bologna city centre.

You can read an interview with Oscar Farinetti, published in Sette by Corriere della Sera in August 2017, on press reader.