Dear Professor Montanari, Eataly's real problem is not the trivialization of the Renaissance

A reflection on Eataly in the aftermath of Tomaso Montanari's article on the trivialization of the Renaissance by Oscar Farinetti's chain.

As those who have been following this site for some time will have well guessed, one of my favorite reads when it comes to current events related to art-historical heritage is Tomaso Montanari’s blog, which just yesterday brought out a post entitled Eataly, the Bignami of the Renaissance: the latest idea to sell paccheri, in which the Florentine art historian talked about the trivialization of the Renaissance operated by the famous Eataly supermarket chain. We then discovered, for example, a whole new meaning attributed to the term"museum route“: I had always thought that with this term one would indicate an itinerary between different museums, instead for Eataly the ”museum route" is nothing more than a series of illustrative panels attached in its Florence location and supposed to explain the Renaissance.

We then discovered the macroscopic errors that even appear in the presentation of the project on Eataly’s official website: piazza della Santissima Annunziata becoming “piazza Annunziata,” Cosimo the Elder transformed into “ruler of Florence” and “art merchant,” “the discovery of the fork” (as if he had found it hidden somewhere) attributed to Catherine de’ Medici, not to mention the spelling errors and sloppy Italian used in the text. And the little gem of “Christopher Columbus’s great discovery of the Americas”: we may wonder what a Genoese man who worked for the Spaniards had to do with Florence, but evidently someone at Eataly saw that the Florentines dedicated a lungarno to Columbus, so they thought there might be a vivid connection. And one could end with an additional gem, the interview with Oscar Farinetti, Eataly’s president and founder, during the opening of the store, an interview in which Farinetti says that as you wander around Eataly “if you want you take the audio guide-look how crazy we are! - you take the audio guide, and you think, it’s the first supermarket in the world where you go with the cart and the audio guide and you cook Jacopo de’ Medici and so on.” So the cases are two, either this is an extremely detailed guidebook, to the point of giving information about almost obscure figures such as this “Jacopo de’ Medici,” or in Farinetti’s presentation there is something wrong. Not to mention the fact that the visitor also has to “cuckold” this “Jacopo de’ Medici”-which suggests that it is a tremendously boring experience. On the finale of the interview, Farinetti also says that inside Eataly you can find books: it would not be a bad idea if he himself bought one on the history of the Renaissance.

And this is to give a little summary. For the first time since I have been writing on this site and quoting your articles, I would like to address Tomaso Montanari directly: kind professor, I fully agree with what you wrote in your article, but in this case the real problem is not so much the trivialization of the Renaissance. Also because I don’t want to believe that tourists are so clueless as to have the Renaissance explained to them in a grocery store, when they have the real thing just a few steps away. It would be a bit like going on a beach vacation and deciding to sunbathe on the hotel terrace. Nor do I want to believe that tourists are naïve enough to believe that what they find inside Eataly is a “museum tour.” Rather than Eataly’s remarks about the Renaissance, we should talk about Eataly’s entrepreneurial (?) culture.

Last December 21, an interview by Carlo Tecce with Oscar Farinetti appeared in the pages of Fatto Quotidiano, significantly titled, “Farinetti: ’Working for 8 euros an hour: the price is right’.” You can find the full text of the interview in the PDF at this link, on page 29. To the journalist who asked Farinetti whether eight euros of gross hourly pay was fair, Farinetti replied, “Fair! It doesn’t seem little to me, the corporate cost is crazy! How much do they pay you for an article? But I am furious because at Eataly you do not earn less than 1,000 euros for 40 hours a week and Sundays.” And we are then supposed to thank him as well? But it doesn’t end there. The journalist then asks, somewhat provocatively, if young people with 1,000 euros a month can start a family. Farinetti’s answer, “No, of course not. They have to make sacrifices. If a couple collects two thousand, however, they can make it. If the state takes away some of our taxes and makes it sexy to hire, then we can also raise salaries.” It then continues with another treat: the reporter asks Farinetti why Eataly saleswomen are searched at the end of their shift. Farinetti replies that it is because it has happened that someone has stolen. Tecce replies by asking why this happens. Farinetti’s response, “they have a low income. And those who have a low income and no civic consciousness are driven to steal.” We would have liked two more questions here, “thanks to whom do they have a low income?” and “who is in charge of hiring people without civic consciousness?” but we have to settle. Farinetti’s remarks finally end this way, “don’t give this interview a bullshit title.” To the readers the considerations.

Professor Montanari, from this interview we can take, in the meantime, an invitation to tolerance: if the person who wrote that article on the Renaissance receives the hourly wage quoted in the interview, he has probably done far too much and we cannot expect more. The problem, however, is that from this interview we also derive fears for the future: if this is the entrepreneurial culture that Matteo Renzi likes, who may get his hands on Palazzo Chigi in the not too distant future, I dare not think what can be of work in Italy. Especially since Farinetti, in the same interview, calls himself “a comrade, since always. Son of a partisan.” So much for the comrades and the left.

Warning: the translation into English of the original Italian article was created using automatic tools. We undertake to review all articles, but we do not guarantee the total absence of inaccuracies in the translation due to the program. You can find the original by clicking on the ITA button. If you find any mistake,please contact us.