Eurochocolate Perugia

 

Do you know what Baci are? No, we are not referring to actual kisses (that’s the meaning of the word in Italian), but to the world-famous chocolate treats by Perugina, an Italian brand based – you guessed it – in the central town of Perugia. As far removed from the American sweets of the same name as a Leonardo fresco is from a Simpsons drawing, the Italian Baci are real delicacies made with the best chocolate, a choco-nougat mix and one perfect whole hazelnut in their center – not to mention the romantic messages included on little paper strips inside each treat.  Even if it was eventually acquired by Nestlé, the Perugina brand was built on their enduring appeal, and twenty years ago the company felt like giving something back to its hometown. So the Eurochocolate festival was born: a nine-days extravaganza dedicated to chocolate in every form (and flavor). The event soon became one of the largest such happenings in the world, and today it attracts over one million visitors from all over the country and abroad. In fact, its success is so huge that the festival often splits over two or more cities. Along the years it appeared in Roma, Torino, Varese, Modica – a Sicilia village famous for its unique type of chocolate – and lately in Gardaland, the biggest Italian theme park. If you want to visit Eurochocolate, however, make no mistake and go directly to its source. Perugia is a charming medieval town, that becomes even more exciting during the event.

If you are simply a glutton you can wander the streets moving from stall to stall to sample their offers and buy incredible chocolate creations. A special chococard gives you discounts, special offers and free samples from selected booths. While you are there, however, you’ll probably want to take in more than that, and Eurochocolate has lots on offer. The most characteristic event surely is the sculpting contest held on the first Sunday, when master chiselers attack 1 cubic meter blocks of chocolate to sculpt it into amazing forms – and happily give the “discarded” chips to the public.  Chocolate obviously also appears in many other forms, that in the past included the largest chocolate bar in the world, a climbing wall, moving puppets and more. Beside this, you’ll also encounter the brown delicacy during street performances, cooking lessons and experimental chocolate tastings held all over the town.

You will have to take a 30-minutes bus ride to find another highlight: the Perugina factory tour, where visitors are treated (literally) with abundant free samples and interesting explanations of all the phases in the creation of Baci and many other masterpieces. After that it all depends on your disposition: if you are the lazy type you can book a chocolate spa treatment back in town, while the more intellectuals can follow a couple of side events. In particular, Eurochocolate World is a smaller show where cocoa-producing countries show their cultures and their cocoa-based products. Altrocioccolato is a fair trade exhibition focused on the sustainability of the chocolate market. As a matter of fact, the festival also is an industry meeting, featuring several conferences geared mostly toward professionals. Some of them can veer into the bizarre indeed, like the yearly symposium on chocolate and acne. Equally inexplicable is the bikers’ meeting on the last day of the event, when hundreds of centaurs swarm close (but not into) town – who said two-wheeled rebels can’t have a sweet tooth too?