When talking about the monumental work behind erecting FICO Eataly World it's impossible not to start with the numbers.
100,000 square meters (approx 24 football pitches), of which 20,000 square metres are fields and stables (housing 200 animals and 2000 plant cultivars) and 80,000 commercial areas that boast 45 dining venues, six classrooms, a cinema, a theatre and a thousand-seat congress centre.
The "Disneyland of Food," as it has already been dubbed, will open to the public on 15November, located near Bologna in northern Italy. FDL was fortunate enough to have a sneak preview ahead of the official public opening, and get a first-hand view of one of Oscar Farinetti, of Eataly fame's most ambitious projects yet.
This new immense food centre is a Disneyland with a difference. The Italian Factory COntadina (FICO) was not born purely to entertain, but also to educate: 30 events and 50 courses (from food photography to gardening) are scheduled to take place daily, with great emphasis on the six different themes, from the relationship between man, fire and animals to the history of wine and the future of agri-food. "We want to talk about how to cultivate, produce and taste Italian food," says the Mayor of Bologna. Among the many educative tools on offer visitors will also discover how to make favourites like beer, bread, cheese and chocolate during their explorative journey.
And, in this case, fun doesn't come at a price. Entrance is free, and once inside, the dining options are designed to appeal to a wide audience: visitors are free to choose from a huge spread of 45 options ranging from Michelin-starred chef Enrico Barolini's restaurant to Pasquale Torrente's speciality fried food straight from Campania. While there's special emphasis given to the cuisine of surrounding region Emilia Romagna, it's an all-inclusive look at Italy as a whole.
The internal and external transport links have also been well thought through: there's a free connection to Bologna Central Station and 500 bicycles for use once inside.
Will it rob visitors to Bologna's wealth of restaurants? The opposite is predicted ... With six million visitors expected per year, it's more likely that the knock-on effect will be positive for the city's tourism. However, as always, when it comes to Oscar Farinetti and his mammoth projects, criticism is sure to follow. But when talking about employment figures, with an additional 700 jobs created up this point, you can only say "fico" (Italian for "cool".)