I'm not fond of entertainment parks (except Jurassic Park, that was great!) so when I first heard about FICO, the Eataly World food park who opens today in Bologna, I was a bit sceptical. Then I first visited it this summer while it was still in progress, met and talked with some of people behind it and my interest started to grow. Finally I've visited it and this is what I've found.
Chefs of Il Mare di Guido at work
What I liked the most
You can see people at work
Most of the kitchens are open and you can closely see the work of artisans and chefs. Like the old ladies from Campofilone, who prepare the egg dough for maccheroncini like XV century' tradition. You can see them stretching the dough on large marble slabs, then wrap it in cotton cloths to slowly absorb moisture.
Where else you have the chance to see a Michelin star kitchen at work? It happens with "Il mare di Guido" a seafood restaurant from Rimini that offers haute-cuisine from Romagna straight to Bologna. I could stare at that window for hours, looking at the young chefs dancing through the stove.
Old ladies making Pasta Campofilone
FICO brought to Bologna things you can only find in here. A few examples?
The meat area at the entrance puts together some of the best Italian producers. The hams of Cinta Senese pigs of Savigni near the black pigs of Calabria, the Osteria of Culatello from Antica Ardenga, where you can eat between old furniture from a monastery, and the quality of Zivieri butcher.
Innovation is provided by local company. Qbo from Bentivoglio produces jams and juices with a new method, using vacuum and pressure to avoid oxidation. The cooking is very fast but at low temperatures and the result is one of the best jam I've ever tried.
I've visited many food markets and fairs that may have inspired FICO, like San Lorenzo in Florence, Mercato di Mezzo in Bologna or even Borough Market in London or Boqueria in Barcelona. FICO is something new. Like all the new things some people will criticise it but it sets a new touchstone for food lovers.
I bet some of the places open now will change during time and there are still a few missteps during the path. But I have no doubts saying that FICO represents a good part of Italian food excellences and a unique way to discover them.
Gramigna, one of the most typical bolognese pasta at Antica Ardenga
What didn't convince me yet
The entertaining part is not for me
Mini-golf, library, beach volley, soccer camp and in general all the entertaining area seemed to me a bit forced and not completely cohesive with the rest of the park. It has probably been created to help people spending a full day inside FICO and to relax between the lots of restaurants and food shops. For my personal interest I will skip it very often and pass to the next aquarium with mussels or the craft beer pub.
Aquarium with mussels
Not much about coffee
FICO confirms that one of the most important Italian products is still out of the trends of the moment. If you look for a good, well made, selected Italian coffee you won't find it. There's Lavazza stand, but that's not exactly my synonymous of quality. Luckily we have created an amazing coffee course in Bologna to cover this lack.
A look-alike animal farm
I was grown in the countryside and I still remember walking with my grandfather to farms picking eggs from happy chickens and visiting orchards and vegetable gardens. So I do know how a breeding farm looks like. The idea of recreating this environment inside FICO, near the parking lots, isn't that attractive. It can be interesting for families with kids though, to show them where the eggs for that great sfoglia and those tasty hams come from.
Will you visit FICO? Have you been there already? Let me know your opinion about it.
FICO Eataly World
Via Paolo Canali 8 - 40127 Bologna (Italy)
Open from Monday to Sunday, 10am to 12pm
How to get to FICO