A Chocolate Lover’s Guide to Italy

Italy’s love affair for chocolate had a dubious start. A merchant of Florence called Francesco Carletti travelled the world towards the end of the 16th century in order to buy slaves with his father. Carletti took pleasure in cocoa beans on a plantation in El Salvador and, upon returning to Italy, chronicled his findings for the Grand Duke of Tuscany, who in turn imported and used the beans for a medicinal drink.  

Soon enough, drinking chocolate (cioccolata calda) became a noble custom across Italy. The Turinese master chocolatier, Giovanni Antonio Ari, received permission to sell chocolate in liquid form from the regal House of Savoy in 1678, and the city of Turin became Europe's chocolate capital. However, it wasn’t until 19th century Italy that chocolate became affordable to the masses and took shape as a bar. The Florentines, known for their perfumery, added citrus and floral aromatics to their liquid chocolate.
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Using machinery, Carrafel pioneered industrialised production, and even today remains one of Italy’s finest chocolate companies, producing gianduiotto. Wander the streets of Turin and it’s quite possible to stumble across traditional chocolate companies from the 19th century. From this century came another of Italy’s oldest and best-known family chocolatiers, Majani, which opened a small chocolate shop in Bologna. They made bars to honour Fiat’s first manufactured car in 1911.  

The household name of Ferrero, home to Ferrero Rocher, Mon Chéri and Nutella, was established in Alba just after the Second World War, while Italy’s popular Valentine’s Day wrapped chocolate of baci (little kisses), complete with love notes, was introduced by the chocolatier Perugina, in the Umbrian city of Perugia. This takes us nicely to how you can best enjoy these sweet delights of Italy today. 
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You’ll find several chocolate festivals throughout the year, such as Bologna’s Cioccoshow, which takes place in November, and Turin’s annual Cioccolatò, which takes place from November to December. But one festival not to be missed is EuroChocolate, in historic Perugia. EuroChocolate is every chocolate lover’s dream. It takes place over 10 days, and twice-yearly, in October and March respectively. While it may seem unconventional to attend such an event on your next Citalia holiday, we highly recommend you do!  

Have a playful cocoa experience, as you join guided workshops or observe show cooking with master chocolatiers and pastry chefs. Feast on craft chocolate from innovative new companies, while honouring the pioneers, and be sure to shop in the great chocolate bazaar. Plus, there’s a huge amount of chocolate-themed family entertainment, such as chocolate pasta and pizza-making, chocolate magic, and even a ‘chocolate climbing wall’ for kids, not to mention a whole area of ornate chocolate sculptures. The festival takes place across Perugia, from Piazza Italia to Piazza IV Novembre, so you’ll get a great feel for the city too.
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