Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Disneyland for foodies


A gastronomic theme park designed as a celebration of Italy's field-to-fork food culture opens next week with backers aiming to pull in six million visitors a year.
Dubbed a 'Disneyland for foodies' and billed as the biggest venture of its kind in the world, FICO Eataly World is located on the outskirts of Bologna.
It is the brainchild of Oscar Farinetti, the entrepreneur behind Eataly, a global network of upmarket Italian food halls that has taken New York and a string of other major cities around the world by storm in recent years.
Spread over ten hectares (25 acres), the park, which will operate as a conference venue as well as a tourist attraction, will be run by a partnership of Eataly and Italian retail group Coop.
The venue has been financed by a consortium of private investors and the local authorities in a city famed for its rich cuisine but off Italy's main tourist track.
The FICO of the park's name comes from the acronym for Fabbrica Italiana Contadina (Italian Farming Factory). Fico is also the Italian word for a fig, and a popular slang term for 'cool'.
The multiple meaning is in keeping with Farinetti's multi-faceted vision of a venue that will allow visitors to take part in activity workshops ranging from food photography to gelato-making via the basics of truffle hunting.

'Total panic'
A fifth of the park, assembled in what was the city's wholesale fruit and vegetable market, is outdoors with some 200 animals and 2,000 species of plant life due to be on show.
"Education is fundamental to the whole thing. But it is also about having fun, eating, shopping," Farinetti told AFP in an interview ahead of Wednesday's opening.
The park is also about celebrating the culinary and farming crafts that lie behind many of Italy's most famous gastronomic products, and the bio-diversity of a country that stretches from Mediterranean islands within sight of Africa to snow-capped Alpine peaks.
Visitors can explore that diversity via more than 40 eateries and a similar number of learn-how-its-done displays by specialist producers of everything from rare-breed beef to liquorice sweets.
As the opening date nears, Farinetti says he is caught between rampant enthusiasm at seeing a dream realised, and "total panic."
"This for me is quite normal. I'm terrified that people won't come in the numbers we expect. You can't help but feel panicked when you start something like this."
Park CEO Tiziana Primori said the target was to be drawing six million visitors a year by 2020, with the business plan envisaging a third coming from the local area, a third from the rest of Italy and a final tranche of around two million from abroad.



Betting on success
Asked if that target is realistic, Farinetti responds with a broad smile.
"No, it's utopian, but every project I have been involved with has been utopian. The whole world is realistic, I prefer utopia. I don't know if we will make it but we'll give it our all.
Underpinning that ebullience is the success enjoyed by almost all of the Eataly stores that have been opened from Copenhagen to Sao Paolo.
"At the moment there is an absolutely crazy interest in Italian food from the citizens of the world, for pasta, for pizza, for our simple cuisine," said Farinetti.
That, he says, is down to the ease in which dishes tasted in Italy or in restaurants can be reproduced in domestic kitchens.
"You can buy half a kilo of pasta, some extra virgin olive oil and San Marzano tomatoes and go home and make what you had. And it is very digestible and light."
Among those backing Farinetti's vision is Antonio Capaldo, owner of the Feudi San Gregorio wine company and one of dozens of entrepreneurs involved in the project.
Capaldo has teamed up with a seafood wholesaler to create a fish-based fast-food eatery at the park which will showcase his expanding company's white and sparkling wines.
"We know all the complications but there is a great thirst for Italian culture around the world, and that, combined with Oscar's track record, is why we are betting on this being a success," he told AFP.
By Angus MacKinnon (The Local)

Thursday, 10 August 2017

It's all going on at Monte Santa Maria Tiberina! Brad Pitt, a giggle, giants, singing and dancing, a bit of crying, magical beasts (and where to find them), literature, classical music and blues. Something for everyone!


Monte Santa Maria Tiberina is a hilltop village that was once an independent state, one of two places in Europe where duels were legal. Located in the Upper Tiber Valley it has Etruscan roots but a Medieval heart, with narrow streets, historic stone buildings and a panoramic position with unparalleled views of the surrounding area. Close to the border of Umbria and Tuscany it was part of the latter right up until 1927. It therefore enjoys the cultural and gastronomic pleasures of both regions, with truffles, porcini mushrooms, excellent olive oil, fantastic wines, and traditionally-made cheeses and salamis.

In the next couple of weeks there is quite a lot going on. From the 16th of August there is a week of films starting at 9.30pm. Shown in the gardens the titles include 'la la land', an Italian comedy called (in English) 'I can quit whenever I want', the Stephen Frears’ film about Florence Foster Jenkins, 'Fantastic beasts and where to find them' (the Harry Potter prequel so to speak), 'Allied', a Romantic thriller with Brad Pitt, the multi nominated 'Manchester by the Sea' and Spielberg's BFG.
 
 

There is also music on the 23rd and 25th; classical violin and blues respectively with the evening in between dedicated to the writer Carlo Cassola, an influential Italian novelist and essayist. 

There's quite a choice and something to suit all tastes!

Monte Santa Maria is well worth a visit anyway. The Bourbon palace, built in the 1500’s, dominates this tiny village along with a crenelated castle. The pretty church is dedicated, as the name of the village suggests, to the virgin Mary, and has an interesting baptismal stone font and a Bourbon family chapel. The procession of the Ascension, re-enacted for centuries on the 15th of August, honours the virgin Mary, the protectress of the village. There are several food festivals throughout the year, dedicated to the area's primary products of mushrooms, truffles, chestnuts, and roast pork.
For more information - www.isogniinteatro.org or call +39 342 275 656

  

Thursday, 1 June 2017

The 2nd of June is the Festa della Repubblica


Here in Italy Republic Day is celebrated on the 2nd of June each year. It commemorates the institutional referendum in 1946 when the Italian people were called to the polls in order to decide on the type of government they wanted following the second world war and the fall of fascism. With 12,717,923 votes for a republic and 10,719,284 for the monarchy, the male descendants of the House of Savoy were sent into exile.

To commemorate this event a grand military parade is held in central Rome and presided over by the President of the Italian Republic in his role as supreme commander of the armed forces. The prime minister, formally known as the President of the council of ministers, attends along with other high officers of state. There are important celebrations in all the Italian embassies and foreign heads of states are invited. Even though the main parade is in Rome, many Italian cities celebrate the day as well.

Prior to the foundation of the Republic, the Italian national day was celebrated on the first Sunday in June, the anniversary of the granting of the 'Statuto Albertino'. From 1977 to 1999, for economic reasons, this was the day when the foundation of the republic was celebrated and it was only in 2000 that the 2nd June was officially instated.



 
Viva L'Italia !