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A rendering of Fico Eataly World. Photo: CAAB/Vini e Sapori

'Foodie theme park' to open in Bologna

22nd March 2014

Arriving in November 2015, the park is designed to celebrate Italian cuisine and to help rescue the country's faltering economy

The project is a joint venture by the Eataly chain of luxury food emporia and the Municipality of Bologna, and is expected to cost around $55 million (£33.4 million) to build.

Covering an area of 86,000 square feet, it will be known as "Fico Eataly World” and will be devoted entirely to the food and wine of Italy. It will feature food labs, specialist grocery stores, restaurants, bars and an aquarium.

Founded by Oscar Farinetti in Turin in 2007 and part-owned by the COOP Group, Eataly has branches across Italy, in the USA and in Japan, while Bologna has long enjoyed a reputation for its cuisine. Ragù alla bolognese, one of Italy's most famous culinary exports, originated in the city, while parmesan cheese, prosciutto, and balsamic vinegar are all specialities of the surrounding Emilia-Romagna region.

Speaking to Italy's online news service the Agenzia Nazionale Stampa Associata, Mr Farinetti expressed his excitement about the new project. He announced his intention to attract upwards of 10m visitors a year, inviting them to "play with this magical thing: Italian food.”

With Italy struggling to emerge from recession, the most severe since the second world war, it is hoped that the park will attract much needed capital, along with further investment, to the region. But the project, dubbed a “Disneyland for food”, has not been free from criticism.

When canvassed by reporters from US media channel National Public Radio, shoppers in Rome's Piazza San Cosimato were quick to express their scepticism. "It sounds like something for tourists," said Simona Vitali. "We Italians have no need for such a theme park,” she added.

The theme park could also constitute unwelcome competition for independently owned restaurants in Bologna, posing a threat to the gastronomic traditions of the city.

Would you visit Italy's foodie theme park, or do you prefer to take things one trattoria at a time? Which other global cuisines do you consider worthy of an attraction or should such things be avoided altogether? Let us know in the comments.

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