All about the food
FICO Eataly World outside Bologna, Italy, offers 20 acres of educational 'carousels,' culinary workshops and food, glorious food
Characterizing any sort of themed destination as "Disney World for (lovers of said theme)" is practically the stuff of clichés. But a new wave of attractions comes close enough to the literal meaning of the analogy that it almost feels wrong to call them anything but.
That's right, food lovers: If you've ever taken a ride on Space Mountain and thought it would be that much more enjoyable with a Spaghetti Mountain rebrand, your happiest place on Earth is now an actuality.
Located outside of Bologna, Italy, the new FICO Eataly World is the latest massive attraction targeting the 75 per cent of travellers who, according to the World Food Travel Association (WFTA), will travel for food. Although there's no tiramisu Tilt-a-Whirl or bucatini bumper cars, the 20-acre food theme park does have a mini forest full of truffle-hunting dogs, educational "carousels" focusing on the relationships between humans and various aspects of food production, as many as 50 culinary workshops and activities a day, plus plenty of food, glorious food, from aged Parmesan and balsamic vinegar to tortellini that's been freshly folded by hand.
It wasn't all that long ago that culinary tourism meant snagging a reservation at the restaurant atop the Pellegrino list or sampling regional local street foods. However, the vast majority of culinary travellers – 93 per cent, according to the WFTA – say they're seeking food and beverage experiences that go beyond mere dining. So, while the park may not boast a roller coaster that's vying for tallest-in-the-world status, for food lovers, an attraction the size of a small town that's dedicated to the immersive joys of learning about and tasting food is thrilling in its own right.
And Eataly is just the latest theme park to offer just this. At Cité du Vin, a more than 32,000-square-foot permanent exhibition space in Bordeaux, France, oenophiles get a hands-on tour of winemaking history and culture, including a "flyover helicopter ride" of wine regions in 17 countries around the world, and a "buffet of the senses" to hone the art of wine tasting.
Prefer beer? Head to Bierwelt in Abensberg, Germany, a beer-themed park that even has animatronic beer gnomes. Chocolate? At Hershey, Pa.-based Hersheypark, kids of all ages can grab a selfie with wandering chocolate bars and height classifications for the (largely non-chocolate-themed) rides range from Hershey miniatures (below 91 centimeres) up through Kisses and Reese's to Jolly Ranchers, kids 152 cm and taller.
Recently there was even talk of transforming Tokyo's Tsukiji fish market – famous for its tuna auctions – into a sushi and fish-focused theme park after a planned relocation to make way for the 2020 Olympics. At this rate, can an actual Disney World of Food be far behind?