You don’t need us to tell you this. Italy was the first, and one of the worst hit countries in Europe by the Covid-19 pandemic. The emotional scars will take years to heal, but for small producers, the financial toll has been just as devastating.
We decided to set up Mangia per Bene when a friend told us that their business had “flatlined” since the crisis hit. Small producers desperately need more business to compensate for their losses of the past few months. And since everyone loves Italian food (we’re biased, of course, but we reckon they have the best ingredients on the planet) setting up an online marketplace for them to sell to the UK seemed the obvious thing to do.
This isn’t a charity; these producers don’t need handouts. But they do need business. And while travel is impossible, and lockdown stockpiling has meant that our kitchen cupboards are unusually bare, it seems like the perfect exchange.
A taste of Italy, at a time we need it, and at a time they need to sell
What about the name?
For Italians, one of the most important things in life is mangiare bene – to eat well. When they recommend you a restaurant, they do so because there, “si mangia bene” – one eats well.
“Mangia bene” is what they say to you as you start eating – enjoy your meal, or, literally, “eat well”.
“Per bene” has two meanings. When you do something properly, you do it per bene. But it also means decent – “una persona per bene”. Then there’s doing something “per il bene di altri” – for the good of others.
So there you have it. Mangia per bene. Eat up, eat well, eat properly – and eat for the good of these people. It’s a decent thing to do.
Mangia per Bene was set up by travel journalist Julia Buckley – that’s me on the ancient Via Flaminia at Carsulae in Umbria. I’m National Geographic Traveller’s Italy expert, associate editor at the Sunday Times Travel magazine, and over the past 15 years I’ve written about Italy for everyone from the Times and the Telegraph to Condé Nast Traveler and CNN. I speak fluent Italian and before coronavirus hit I was over there every month meeting artisans and producers. I was last there at the very end of February, as it was becoming increasingly clear that life in Italy was going to change for ever.
That’s how I know just how hard hit these producers have been by the virus, and why I know what’s on the line. And that’s why I decided to set up Mangia per Bene.
I’ve been buying from these people for years, and I’ve written about them and promoted them as much as I can. But it’s time to do something more. As Italy emerges from this crisis, these small businesses need all the support they can get.
I’ve spent the past 15 years scouring Italy to find the best products to write about. I really do think the producers here are the best in their field – you can trust me on that.
Julia knows Italy better than anyone in the business. If she says something’s good, it unquestionably is. Pat Riddell, editor, National Geographic Traveller UK