FICO Eataly World in Bologna, Italy is one of the most unique theme parks in the world.
Food glorious food
There’s been Graceland, Dollywood, Legoland, Universal Studios and Walt Disney Parks. So it’s not surprising that someone would finally come up with the idea of an “agri-food park,” a theme park dedicated to food.
FICO Eataly World is the brainchild of the same creative team that has been behind the wildly popular and highly successful international chain, Eataly (which CEO Oscar Farinetti has already expanded to 40 locations in Italy, the U.S., Japan, South Korea, Brazil, Turkey, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Russian Germany and Sweden, with plans to open many more).
Clearly, we live in a food-centric culture where chefs are revered like celebrities; our food obsessions are regularly captured and shared on our smartphones; and culinary travel is one of the fastest-growing segments of the travel industry. And there’s no longer any shame in being an unabashed foodie.
But nowhere is the food as good as it is in Italy and even Italians acknowledge that the country’s best foods are found in the fertile Emilia Romagna region. The precious specialties of the region, which have received protective designations from the government, include Prosciutto di Parma, Mortadella, Parmigiano Reggiano, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and Aceto Balsamico di Modena.
We’ve made pilgrimages to Emilia Romagna to learn about and consume these unique products (including piadina and tigella breads, tortelloni pasta and squacquerone cheese) and have had opportunities to visit with and meet home cooks and local producers.
An Italian Theme park in Emilia Romagna
However, the 2018 opening of FICO Eataly World has been a game-changer in accelerating the region’s growth as a tourist mecca. In its first year, the new park drew 2.8 million visitors and visitation has grown exponentially since then. It is located about 25 minutes (by car) from the historic center of Bologna, one of the world’s food capitals, giving us and many others the perfect excuse to visit.
Nicknamed a “Disney World for Food Lovers” (with the tagline “From Field to Fork),” FICO Italy World is an Italian theme park that welcomes food lovers of all ages. (FICO is a double-play on words. It is the acronym for Fabbrica Italiana Contadina [Italian agricultural factory] and also the slang term for “cool” in Italian.)
Visitors are able to tour the 20-acre, $106 million park by foot or by tricycles equipped with chill bags to keep their purchases as cool as the park. “Biodiversity Ambassadors” provide guided tours in both Italian and English.
Powered by what is said to be the largest solar panel installation in Europe, the park features 40 farming factories as well as 60 eateries (restaurants, trattorias, bistros and street food kiosks) where visitors can taste traditional foods, take classes, and learn about the processing of foods. FICO Eataly will even have its own post office.
Diners can choose from pastas, pizzas, fish, meats, vegetables and sweets. There are also bars serving wine, beer, cocktails and aperitivi.
Another area of the park (called the Mercato) is dedicated to markets and shops. Open-air fields and stables with animals offer visitors (especially appealing to children) opportunities to learn about crops and animal breeds native to the region.
On warm weather days, visitors can relax outdoors at The Orchard, The Olive Grove, or The Vineyard.
Hands-on activities include how-to workshops on gelato-making, Italian bread-making, digging for truffles, and more. There are also rides and entertainment for people of all ages.
TripAdvisor notes that 99 percent of their travelers recommend the experience of visiting FICO Eataly World. It’s also a great destination for picking up authentic souvenirs to bring home for friends and family—from cheeses to sauces, wines to oils, kitchen utensils, and handicrafts.
If you are a food lover planning a trip to Italy, you’ll want to experience this farm-to-fork experience. If not, it might be time to book your trip!
*All photo renderings courtesy of FICO Eataly World.
IF YOU GO
FICO is open from Thursday to Sunday. Admission to the park and parking are free although there are charges for different tours and activities).