A giant theme park featuring Italian food will open on Wednesday in one of Italy's culinary capitals, which its organisers hope will one day be on par with the Colosseum in drawing tourists.
FICO Eataly World, dubbed by local media as the "Disneyland of Italian food," is set to be inaugurated by Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni on the outskirts of Bologna, the northern town famous for giving the world tortellini, lasagne and bolognese sauce.
Set on the grounds of a former wholesale food market, the 100,000-square-metre site comprises 2 hectares of open fields and stables, 200 animals, more than 45 restaurants, bars and cafes, an indoor market, a conference centre, a theatre and cinema facilities.
Billed as the "world's largest agri-food park," FICO Eataly World is the brainchild of Oscar Farinetti, an entrepreneur whose chain of luxury Italian food supermarkets, Eataly, has successfully expanded abroad, including in Germany, the United States, Qatar and Japan.
Visitors will be able to taste and buy Italian food, tour 40 on-site farm factories, take cooking classes and learn about a range of food-related topics.
Entry is free, but tours, classes and food are extra.
In a statement, FICO said it aims to attract 6 million visitors per year, including at least 2 million foreigners.
By comparison, the Colosseum and the Roman Forum, Italy's most popular tourist site, had 6.4 million visitors last year.
"Italy needs to go from 50 to 100 million tourists [per year]. This is what FICO is for," Farinetti said at a press launch last week.
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