Let’s Stop Calling Eataly's Huge New Park ‘Disneyland for Food’
FICO Eataly World will be many things when it opens on November 15 in Bologna, Italy. It will be a market, a food hall, a school, a museum. One thing it will not be is an amusement park. Lots of coverage of the world's largest agri-food park, as its creators call it, has used phrasing like “Disneyland for food.” The comparison has been made by many people in the last few weeks alone and in fact, even retweeted by Eataly World itself. But FICO CEO Tiziana Primori doesn’t think that quite captures the mission or the spirit of the 20+ acres dedicated to the sustainable practices and the production of Italian food. “It’s not wrong,” Primori tells me through an interpreter, it’s just incomplete. “FICO Eataly World is a place where people can learn—learn something more about the wonders of Italian biodiversity and where you can learn by doing.”
It’s not that Primori and her team at FICO, an organization dedicated to Italian food education and sustainability, don’t want people to enjoy their time at Eataly World, they do. But Primori thinks that the fun should have some focus. “Education must be fun, but when you have fun you have to learn something more.” Rather than a theme park, she thinks of it more as “the university of food and flavor.”
It’s easy to dismiss the amusement park analogy as just some sort of Internet shorthand for “a big, happy place mobbed by tourists.” But Disney also conjures ideas of a playground where costumed performers mug and dance or, perhaps in the case of Eataly World, of people playing farmer or pizzaolo. After speaking with Primori though, the differences between her park and other major tourist attractions seem to be purpose and authenticity. The people who will staff Eataly World will be, first and foremost, accomplished farmers or culinary professionals. “Every day visitors can choose from 30 courses led by excellent Italian producers who have spent their entire lives making Italian food,” she says. And they will be there everyday, in 40 working factories and farms and 40 more kitchens, not so much to entertain the masses, but to teach them (and feed them along the way).
For some people getting to watch and work with old school pasta makers or sheep farmers or bakers really is their version of the Happiest Place on Earth. But it’s OK to let a place like Eataly World stand on its own as the massive home of some excellent Italian food and some robust Italian history.
FICO Eataly World will open, with free admission, to the public on November 15. For more information check out their website.