Caffè Espresso Academy of Fiesole: museum and education

The La Marzocco project takes place in the old professional workshop for the production of coffee machines in the Florentine hills. A piece of Italian business history that aims to show the way to the future of coffee

During the pandemic (the first inauguration dates back to spring 2020), the project dedicated to the coffee culture based on the Florentine hills, in Fiesole, from La Marzocco. An international center that is also a center for research, education and dissemination, and for that reason it has been renamed Academy of Espresso Coffee. The building is the old Piano San Bartolo workshop, where the company was founded in 1927 on the initiative of Bambi brothers – today world leader in the production of advanced coffee machines (the first patent for the horizontal boiler dates back to 1939, lever machines came in the 1950s) – moved the business in 1961. An example of disused industrial archeology since 2009 – when a new move moved its headquarters to the more efficient and modern facility in Scarperia – rebuilt thanks to an investment of 6 million euros to accommodate the Academy’s many activities, which for a few weeks have also been open to the public (guided tours only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays).


The Fiesole hub is first and foremost place for studies and experiments: the start of a research project promoted together with the plant neurobiologist dates back to 2020 Stefano Mancuso, Director of PNAT (Academic Branch of the University of Florence) and ENEA, the National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development. The project, which will be completed in 2023, aims to analyze the coffee plant in all its components, in order to propose new, more sustainable cultivation methods. Then there is the dissemination mission for the project, delegated to the museum’s itinerary, including contemporary art installations useful for explaining the Marzocco world, videos and panels to deepen the origin and transformation processes of the raw material, interactive aids involving the five senses and also a greenhouseentrusted to the care of the tropical agronomist Massimo Battaglia (which is also responsible for the Academy School), which depicts the conditions for a typical plantation, with Arabica coffee plants, banana trees and other tropical species. In addition to producing coffee regularly, the plants help to filter the fine dust in the complex; visually, the greenhouse, in its glass cube, presents itself to the eye in the middle of the exhibition space, which winds its way through professional machines, maps and a timeline indicating the most important dates in the history of coffee and the Florentine company. There is no shortage of contemporary art with a large, engaging, magnetic installation by the artist Charles Morgan (London, 1951). One of his kinetic works of art which in this case serves in a curious way to talk about the production processes and the company’s supply chain.


Among the memories in the collection is also the van La Marzocco, which was once used to show the company’s machine samples for baristors. And speaking of the history of the past, it was also considered to evoke the atmosphere of one Italian bar of the sixties: the large counter, the bottles of the time, a La Marzocco GS, the payphone and a mixture created to the taste of the time, available for tasting. The museum also contains an area dedicated to it temporary exhibitions: Travel to the coffee country is the title of the first project shown, born out of the collaboration between Museu do Cafè in Santos and the Brazilian Embassy in Rome. Shows the story of the Italian emigration to Brazil, which during the last decades of the nineteenth century greatly contributed to the development and success of Brazilian coffin cultivation.
Last but not least, and in fact central to the project’s goals, is the education chapter. Beyond laboratories (for analysis of raw coffee, roasting, sensory analysis and tasting, extraction, creation of ceramic objects connected to the world of the bar) and Grand Bar for education, the Academy offers specialization in collaboration with universities, organizations and institutions, to contribute to the dissemination of coffee culture expertise. . Among them, the master’s degree UniVerso Caffè, with the University of Florence, which aims to train new professionals to be included in the coffee industry and in those connected to it: the first edition, which started in January 2022, has just ended. Since March last year, SCA and CQI courses have also been held, internationally recognized courses for education and certification in coffee. While the so-called are dedicated to amateurs and enthusiasts experience, one-hour mini-courses that allow a first approach to a decidedly more complex world than the usual imaginary with roots in Italy suggests: from cupping to Latte Art, from the ABC of espresso extraction to the basics of roasting and “processing”, the processing of coffee. The organization chart is supplemented by Emporium with merchandising, professional equipment and books about coffee, as well as the library (by agreement, it is also possible to consult the company’s historical archive). Next door (or rather, in the basement of the structure), the spirit of the place has been reincarnated in Officine Fratelli Bambi, who recovers the company’s origins by manufacturing tailor-made and handmade series machines.
At the gates of the Tuscan capital, the Academy only confirms the role of guiding light that Florence has taken in recent years in the rehabilitation of coffee culture in Italy. In this regard, we mention the work done in the city of Francesco Sanapo with Ditta Artigianale (fresh from another opening at Lungarno) and the latest idea from the Livorno café Le Piantagioni del Caffè, promoter of the pop and hypertechnological café Fluid.

– Livia Montagnoli

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