My experience at Fico Eataly World in Bologna

My experience at Fico Eataly World in Bologna

In November 2017, Fico Eataly World, the world’s largest agri-food park opened its doors to the public. 6 months later, more than 1.3 million visitors already had the chance to explore the gigantic 100,000 sqm park, broken into 2 main strips, dedicated to the Italian biodiversity and food specialties.

The park has been designed by Oscar Farinetti, the founder of Eataly, who reinvented the food hall concept in the early 2000’s.

Fico stands for Fabbrica Italiana Contadina (the Italian Food Factory) but also means “cool” in Italian. A fancy double meaning which is probably not understood by foreigners unfortunately.

Fico’s customer experience looks like the one you can have at a theme park. After driving through the gates, you are invited to park your car on large parking lots that are laid out all around the main building.

The massive complex has not been built for Fico though. True to its commitment to reduce its carbon footprint, Fico Eataly World has just bought the building from the previous owners and turned it into a temple which celebrates Italian gastronomy and culture. In addition, thousands of solar panels installed on the roofs allow Fico to achieve energy self-sufficiency. And last, visitors can borrow bikes to pedal into the premises and burn off a portion of the calories they are likely to intake.

Fico’s purpose is to showcase Italian biodiversity to the broadest audience possible, whatever the country, the demographics or the social background.

Right from the entrance, Fico makes it obvious to visitors that Italy stands out from the rest of Europe when it comes to agriculture. Take the apple production for example. Italia, and Italia alone, accounts for 1000 varieties of apples out of the 1,200 that you can find throughout the EU.

Inside the park, visitors can discover dozens of food specialties, taste them and buy them. Moreover, 40 real production units are featured in the park, provided that these specialties originate from the Bologna region. Otherwise, you will just find them in restaurants or on shelves.
Visitors can also enjoy a wide range of food workshops to learn how to prepare pizza or pasta. And bring back this expertise to their homeland.
The educational purpose of Fico is highlighted through the numerous posters and maps that help visitors to visualize and understand where the products are made.
Outside the park around 200 animals, that will never be slaughtered, are here to help kids to understand the whole food chain.
When it comes to pick a restaurant, the array of options is amazing. Pizza, pasta, meat, fish, sweets…Fico has everything Italian food lovers can dream of.
Sometimes, even the restaurant decors are the same that the ones you may find in traditional restaurants.
The place is packed with a diverse audience that traditional retail venues often struggle to attract. At Fico you can hear languages from all over the world (French, English, Chinese mostly) while families or school groups are enjoying cooking classes in a cheerful atmosphere.
A few non-food Italian famous brands are also showcased. While you walk around the park, you may stumble upon Bianchi bikes (some bikes are worth more than 12,000 euros), kitchen appliances specialist Smeg or New Holland farming vehicles stands and stores.
The park also provides kids and families with serious indoor playgrounds to encourage them to stay longer and enhance their experience.
A plaza has been designed to host live shows and events, not to mention the conference center that can accommodate up to 1,000 people.

Some creative benches are displayed now and then to take a break.

The customer journey ends with a large Eataly supermarket.

Fico has judiciously installed the Italian post office just after the checkout area so that tourists can have their groceries shipped to their home towns. However, the service comes with a price. Count on at least 40 euros to ship a 10 kg parcel in central Europe.

To wrap-up the visit, I would like to point out that Fico Eataly World is definitely a retail and entertainment destination for a broader audience, ranging from hard core foodies to families on a quest for a cultural yet entertaining experience. It is obviously less authentic and vibrant than worldwide famous Eataly Food Halls, but Fico has a different purpose: educate people about Italian food and culture so that both the younger generations and tourists be aware of the necessity to protect and support them in our over-industrialized food world.

Oscar Farinetti is already preparing a new destination venue that will celebrate the 2 other F’s of the Italian economy and culture, apart from Food, A.K.A Furniture and Fashion. The project is called The Great Pea and is likely to be disclosed in 2019.