By — CLAUDIA FRANGIAMORE & CAMILLA ABBRUZZESE
Translated by — NICOLE SILVYA BOURIS
In occasion of the 166th anniversary of the ‘Cinque Giornate di Milano’, one of the best entrepreneurial adventures has been given birth to, exactly in the building of the former Teatro Smeraldo in Piazza XXV Aprile. We are talking about EATALY.
The newborn franchising of the most famous Italian food chain in the historical center of Milan, was opened on the 18th of March at 10 a.m. and it attracted thousands of visitors the whole day. The inauguration lasted for five days, just like the Cinque Giornate.
Just after the first (modest) location in Milan in Piazza Cinque Giornate, this second franchising, much bigger and better furnished, promises to satisfy every single taste desire of gastronomic specialties coming from the whole peninsula. On each of the three floors there are dozens of shelves full of products characterized by the Made in Italy excellencies that never disappoint consumers.
Eataly gives every single Italian region its own glories, nevertheless the made in Lombardy products have obviously more attention compared to other product made in other regions and, as a matter of fact, they occupy the majority of the store’s stock. No worries though, because you will surely have the opportunity of buying a Sicilian lemon jam or the world-known Pasta di Gragnano, moreover the Neapolitan Mozzarella or finally onions from Tropea. Eataly will make you taste a little bit of every single one of our regions.
Among wines, cheeses and other delicious specialties, Eataly dedicated a specific section to the ‘Presidi Slow Food’ which is the famous association funded by Carlo Petrini. The main goal of the association is to spread the Italian gastronomic tradition; some of the ‘protected’ foods are the chicken pate’ and the rabbit tuna which are today characterized by the brand Slow Food. The brand has created more than 220 aid projects in Italy.
There is also a section that is completely dedicated to body treatments, which are made of precious ingredients, for instance the Dead See minerals, known for their curative elements.
Inside the store you can also find a bakery, the old and known chocolate producer Venchi and the detailed sweets by Luca Montersino. Moreover you can find a cheese section close to the meat one and many little restaurants/bars from where, while eating or drinking coffee, you can observe people in the store choosing their favorite natural food. On the last floor, kind of hidden, is the starred restaurant “Alice” of Viviana Varese.
The inauguration speech was hosted not only by the funder Oscar Farinetti, but also by the major of Milan Giuliano Pisapia and by Carlo Petrini. Farinetti, class 1954, is one of the greatest Italian company managers; he said: “Beauty has to influence the whole city: it has to be something everyone has to have, a shared good.” And we do hope that Eataly is one of those places where people can (re)discover the real Italian (great) beauty, fully enjoying our unique culture and mostly our unique cuisine, envied by every other country in the world.
Gastronomy is not the only protagonist of this project: Farinetti preserved the beauty of the theater that, before Eataly, occupied those 5000 square meters by maintaining the old stage so to give the possibilities of exhibiting to emerging artists and consequently to underline the cultural spirit of our nation. Customers will be offered a complete musical, and entirely free, exhibition, which will go through a vast number of musical genres and it will surely rejoice the customers’ hearing. Even more, Eataly’s stage will host people from the entertainment word, like: reading, recital, dancing and everything else that attains to culture in every way including the gastronomic one.
Why does granting a continuity with the past looks so important for Farinetti?
The answer is very easy.
Teatro Smeraldo was born in 1942, during the fascist era and it preserves the architecture, with the pillars, the arcade, and the rigid lines. It was initially born as a cinema and it remained so until the ‘80s when it was transformed into a theater, which hosted national and international plays; following a very distinctive path as, normally and nowadays, it is more probable to be a theater to be transformed in a cinema and not the other way around.
The Smeraldo can be defined as a milestone of the post-1950s theatrical culture, creating a mix in between plays and prose, variety and lyrics, even if the main genre was music. Singers like Bruce Springsteen, Deep Purple, David Bowie, Giorgio Gaber, Rent with Pavarotti and then also legends from the past century like Dapporto and Campanini; and actors like Stanlio and Onlio, the Rege brothers, and Aldo, Giovanni e Giacomo have performed on this stage.
The Longoni Theater has lived the post-WWII era: the trashy and uninhibited one of soubrettes, first ladies and stripteases. A new era was then inaugurated with the passing of the management to Longoni junior that was launched with the representation of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ by Cobelli. Inside those walls, the Movimento 5 Stelle was funded.
The opening of Eataly establishes the final end of the theater, whose closing regards other matters, already known in the past.
On the one hand, the crisis was due to the endless works in Piazza XXV April, right in front of the theater, on the other, it was also caused by unfair competition in the theatrical sector.
The very first difficulties for the Longoni family regarding the management of the Smeraldo were already visible during the October of 2010. At that time the Milano Province tried to help through a meeting in between Gianmario Longoni (President of Officine Smeraldo s.p.a.) and the then culture assessor Novo Umberto Maerna, to recuperate the theater’s activity.
Despite this, though, nothing was really done for other two years, and on February 2012 the final closing was declared. Actually the problem was to be solved by the Commerce and Urbanity Department because, as already said, the main reason of the closing down are the six-years-long city works in front of the theater.
Gianmario Longoni also talked about a possible reopening in another area or participating to Farinetti’s project, but neither of the two options were actually realized.
The brilliant and attractive past that this place can claim as its own, fortunately continues to live in Eataly’s spirit thanks to the unchanged stage on which artists will still be able to perform.
In this way, Eataly has given the way to a new attitude versus culture which should be taken as an example throughout the whole nation, so to demonstrate that for every era that ends and for every curtain that closes, there is something new ready to open up without tyrannically stepping on the past, whereas preserving the spirit and the importance of the achieved goals.
A way of giving a particular shape to culture without completely changing the one that lived before, a new mechanism to create a future based on the past models, without any anachronisms, just giving valor to what once was glorious despite the fact it could not be now.
A great omen and an example to follow: hoping that entering in culture with culture itself will not be anymore as rare as in the past.