Italy’s first supermarket was opened in 1957 in Milan. Its logo, which just said “supermarket”, was designed with a very long initial “S” – hence the subsequent name, “EsseLunga”, (which means “long S”) of one of this country’s largest chains with 149 branches, 29 of which are in Tuscany.
Our nearest EsseLunga was at the Marlia roundabout on the way to Lucca, originally opened in 1991 and the first superstore and “centro commerciale” (shopping centre) in this area. Shortly after Christmas 2013 it was closed for complete restructuring. I didn’t think the store needed it. The old EsseLunga with an entrance mall seemed OK but clearly big plans were in the offing. For a whole year shoppers at the closed Marlia store were shuttled free of charge to the EsseLunga branch near Porcari while redevelopment took place.
The results were finally visible last week when the reincarnated EsseLunga superstore opened its sliding doors to the public. I resisted the opening but yesterday evening I decided to enter EsseLunga and see whether I’d want to shop there again.
The new superstore is quite spectacular. Shopping space has been doubled from 2,000 to 4,000 square meters and there are 32 check-out points alone. This has meant a reduction in the original car parking space but, instead, an underground park has been added with even more parking.
A few exterior tasks were still being completed but I felt that Esselunga’s efforts at Marlia brought out the best of Italy. Projects here can be completed in time. Projects can inject a massive hope for the country’s retail future and projects can also be elegant and hospitable: elegant because EsseLunga prides itself on using Italy’s best architects, like Enzo Piano, for its stores’ design, and hospitable because here, even after a week that it had opened, for example, we received quite a few freebies at the exit.
The redesign has meant the sweeping away of the original entrance mall, which was a little narrow anyway, and opens out a much larger foyer which includes the Atlantic bar, part of the “Supermercati d’Italia group” which owns EsseLunga and also the beauty care branch “Esserbella”, (be beautiful) which is included in the new store.
For me the best new features were an improved wine section with its own sommelier and featuring some of Italy’s most sought after wines including this sassicaia at only £129 a bottle (careful not to drop your shopping basket in a hurry!) and another rare example from the vineyards at only euros 189…
The whiskey selection was particularly good, with some moderate prices.
There was also a great new bread section:
And the fish were also well represented.
The salumeria variety was also extensive:
By the foyer there were also a jewellery and watch shop, a shoe shop and a hairdressers.
The best new feature, however, was the implementation of energy-renewable sources to run the whole colossus including photo-voltaic cells and a computerised micro-climate regulation system. It’s been estimated that 30 tons of oil will be saved annually by the store.
If you are political correct or even observant you might like to consider the fact that EsseLunga has fought a long battle with cooperative movement giants “Coop” and “Conad” to the extent that its founder member, Bernardo Capretti, published a book on the subject called “Il falce e il carrello” (The sickle and the shopping trolley).
However, my view is that any entrepreneur with vision in Italy’s semi- stagnation today, who has placed his bets on such a magnificent new project, is injecting the country’s economy with much needed adrenaline and, best of all, giving Italy’s younger generation, half of whom find themselves jobless today, a better chance of employment.
So, I ‘m giving at least two cheers for Marlia’s resurrected EsseLunga