Italy is already a fantastic destination but chocolate lovers can rejoice: it’s a heavy-hitter in the land of sweet cacao as well. There are three (arguably four, but we’ll start with three) major areas for chocolate in Italy, but since I know most travelers cannot hit all of these areas, I’ve included a checklist of my favorite Italian chocolate that all travelers can taste.
There are factories, tours and tastings in each area, but chocolate in Italy is not limited to these areas so I’ve also included other great recommendations for worthwhile chocolate-related places to visit across Italy.
At Expo 2015, I visited the Italian Chocolate Districts exhibit which was very interesting. In the photo of the building, below, I wasn’t able to capture the third chocolate district which is Torino.
Chocolate in Italy: Turin
Nutella was created in Turin by Pietro Ferrero in the mid-20th century, but Turin has been known for its quality chocolate for centuries. This elegant and wealthy European capital was long the seat of the royal Savoy family, which brought chocolate into fashion from the 16th century. Two hundred years later, the bicerin became popular here, a sweet hot drink that combined chocolate, coffee, and cream that is still service in traditional coffee bars in the city center. In the 19th century, Turin introduced gianduja, a velvety smooth chocolate that is made with the paste of the region’s hazelnuts and is used as a spread, filling, or confection. One great way of experiencing this haven for chocoholics is with a chocolate-themed walking tour of the city center.
Chocolate in Italy: Perugia
Umbria’s largest city has been synonymous with chocolate since the Perugina candy company was founded here at the turn of the 20th century and introduced its now world-famous Bacio chocolate and hazelnut praline. Perugia now hosts Italy’s most famous chocolate festival each year, EuroChocolate, which draws crowds of chocolate enthusiasts each October who can peruse the stands lining the streets of the historic center where chocolatiers from across the globe sell their sweet treats. If you plan on visiting this famous event, be sure to schedule your visit on a weekday morning; on the weekends and evenings the city can be overwhelmed with visitors, making it a challenge to park or move around. Otherwise, book a chocolate cooking class at the Perugina factory’s School of Chocolate on the outskirst of the city.
Chocolate in Italy: Modica
With its soaring temperatures and remote hilltop post, you would never guess that Modica in southern Sicily would be famous for chocolate. This historic city makes a unique local version based on an Aztec hand-grinding technique and ancient recipe introduced to the area by the Spanish centuries ago that lends it a grainy texture and aromatic flavor; cioccolato di Modica is certified traditional local product. The town hosted the popular Chocomodica festival in years past, which attracted more than 100,000 visitors each year. Today, you can sample this local specialty and see how it’s prepared at a number of local chocolate workshops.
Travelers can taste chocolate anywhere in Italy, and here are some of my favorite Italian chocolate specialties to look out for:
Also, keep your eyes peeled for these great Italian chocolate brands:
Chocolate in Italy: other great recommendations
1560 Chocolate arrives in Turin from France. Emanuele Filiberto of Savoy serves hot chocolate to the city in order to celebrate the transfer of the ducal capital from Chambery to Turin.
1746 Chocolate processing starts in Modica Sicily, thanks to local chocolatiers who passed on secrets of their ancient workmanship.
1763 The Bicerin is invented in Turin and is an immediate success. Made with chocolate, coffee, and cream, it’s considered to be a chocolate innovation.
1860 Giacomo Schucani moves to Perugia from Switzerland and opens the famous Sandri pastry shop and coffee bar.
1865 Chocolatier Michele Prochet creates the first individually wrapped chocolate, the Gianduiotto.
1880 In Modica, Sicily, Francesco Bonajuto opens his candy store, with delicacies also of Arab and Spanish origin.
1934 Torino debuts the cremino chocolate: three layers of which the outer two are gianduja and the middle part is coffee or lemon or hazelnut.
1994 First Eurochocolate festival, includes craftsmen and industrial producers.
Featured image by Sonia Belviso via Flickr, licensed under CC BY 2.0
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