Eurochocolate 2011 – Perugia
I absolutely love a festival.
I’ve been to food and wine festivals, street festivals, music festivals, I’ve even event managed a festival or two!
For me, there is just something special about them.
While not always immediately visible, a festival has a long lasting and profound social, economic and cultural impact on a city. It creates a sense of vibrancy and life; intangible but somewhat electric. And… they’re lots of fun!
When I realised Eurochocolate – the annual International Festival of Chocolate – was on this month, I booked to go to Perugia without hesitation. And I just knew I was in for something special.
Some of you may not have been to or even heard of Perugia, but I can bet that most of you have eaten a Baci chocolate? Well Perugia is home to the Perugina chocolate house and therefore home of the Baci.
It’s a gorgeous city perched in the hilltops of the Umbrian countryside. It’s one of the regions’ provinces and its capital. Perugia is a well known centre of architecture and art and is the heart of a region certainly well adept to putting on a Festival. It’s of course home to the internationally acclaimed Umbria Jazz Festival held in July annually and the Spoleto Festival held in June every year in Spoleto (and in its sister city of Charleston, USA. A third version of this arts festival was first held in Melbourne in the 1980s. In 1990 it changed its name to the Melbourne International Festival of the Arts and is now commonly known as the Melbourne Festival).
I didn’t go to Perugia for any of these reasons.
Chocolate – importantly, Eurochocolate 2011 – is what brought me to this beautiful city. A 10-day long festival celebrating what for me is undoubtedly the most divine thing in the world! (For details visit http://www.eurochocolate.com/perugia2011/)
From the get go, I found that the locals were just so nice and friendly. While the concierge at my hotel agreed with me, he quickly pointed out that during the Festival, the Perugini are always in what they colloquially like to call a chocolate-induced happy mood.
And how could you not be?
From start to finish, I could not wipe the child-like smile off my face – those of you who know me well, can only imagine!
I spent two whole days visiting every single one of the 100+ chocolate stalls. Armed with my Choco-card (the festival loyalty card a bargain at €6) I began on one of the most decadent journeys of my life! My eyes lit up at every turn and (embarrassingly) my jaw may have dropped on more than one occasion.
I was completely mesmerised by the sights, smells, variety and sheer quantity of chocolate… oh and the sounds – chocolate themed English and Italian music blaring through the city speakers! (Italian music followers, think a la Pupo, Gelato al Cioccolato)
Some of the suppliers represented included Perugina (of course!), Nestle, Ciobar (a popular local producer of Italian hot chocolate), Ferrero, Kinder, Motta, Illy, Lindt and Milka – promoting their new Philadelphia chocolate cream cheese spread! Plus a host of famous Italian and European artisan chocolate houses.
For a self-proclaimed chocaholic, this was mecca.
Chocolate on every corner – white, dark, milk, praline, with hazelnuts, with any nuts! Hot chocolate, chocolate crepes, muffins, cupcakes, chocolate coated fruit, coconut, chilli, chocolate coated anything – you name it, I saw it (and pretty much ate it)!
Unfortunately it rained for most of the time I was there, but this seemed to have no impact on crowd numbers or participation. Sadly after two days, time was up and I returned to Rome, suitcase (and stomach!) full of splendid chocolate!
Eurochocolate 2011 = another tick off the bucket list for me!
The next European chocolate festival will take place in Torino in March 2012. I’m just saying.
Baci (di Perugina!) da Trastevere,