Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

16 October 2024

World Food Day

Cucine Popolari Cesena

Cesena’s Popular Kitchen “a collective social experience without equal in the city.”


The idea of Italy’s Cucine Popolari, or Popular Kitchens, is a simple one: build a pleasant space where people, regardless of income, can share a meal and their life stories. 

"A place for socializing dedicated above all to those who cannot guarantee a meal a day, explains Enzo Capelletti, president of the association behind the Popular Kitchen in Cesena. “But they are open to everyone.”  

Born out of the hardship of the COVID pandemic, the concept was first introduced in Bologna. But it was Maria Elena Baredi who brought the idea to Cesena, a town on the Adriatic Coast, in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region.   

Maria, who knew the founder of the Bologna Kitchen, Roberto Morgantini, gathered twenty friends to discuss doing the same in Cesena. Together, they set up an association, found rental space in the centre, and opened the Cesena Kitchen five months later.  

Since March 2022, they have prepared an average of 80 meals a day, lunch and dinner. Those without work or housing dine for free, others leave a donation.  

Volunteers serve the meals, and the setting is cosy, says Paola Farneti, the association’s vice president.  

 “The Kitchen is not a canteen. We eat from ceramic dishes, drink from glasses and the tables are set with tablecloths and metal cutlery,” she says. 

It’s all part of building a community of care, committed to equality and the redistribution of resources. 

The initiative has brought a lot of attention to Cesena, says Paola, who calls it “a collective social experience without equal in the city.”  

Sadly, the Cesane Kitchen was hit hard by the recent floods in Emilia-Romagna. 

“When [the Savio river] overflowed, the wave quickly reached the kitchens, submerging them more than two meters,” recalls Paola.  

It took community members 10 days to remove mud and salvage what they could.  

But the damage was extensive. So, thankfully, was the outpouring of help and financial support.  

“We have felt a lot of love for the Kitchens and a lot of solidarity around us.”  

Hopes are the Kitchen can reopen later this year, says Paola.