How can three admitted chocoholics go wrong at the annual chocolate festival in Perugia?
The festival is called EuroChocolate and features chocolates from all over Italy, with emphasis on Perugina and their Bacia brand, made locally. They often try to set a world record with the biggest candy bar ever, or this year with the biggest chocolate mustache ever. Go figure.
We picked a Monday for the annual 10-day event because we heard they attract nearly a million people every year. It was located in the busiest area of the city center, was still relatively crowded, and made the city feel a bit dirty.
We were especially disappointed with the presentation, and presentation is what Italians normally do better than anyone. It looked more like a large church carnival with look-alike white-tented booths, many with repetitive lines of chocolate. Of course, there were balloons and a stilt man, and even a Ricola character, but we don’t know what Ricola has to do with chocolate or even Italy for that matter.
There were a few creative efforts, including one booth that presented what really looked like rusty tools and wooden spoons and forks and much more, all in chocolate. Another booth set up what appeared to be a shoe store, with all styles in chocolate. But some tried a little too hard. Sliced green peppers on top of dark chocolate?
We had two favorites. The chocolate one was the hot chocolate. We have often heard of a thick, pudding-like, hot chocolate that our favorite US gelato store in Hanover, NH, sells. But we have always opted for the gelato. It came in about 30 varieties. Number 1 was the darkest and our choice. This version was the absolutely thickest and best tasting hot chocolate ever!
And, what’s a carnival without carnival food? With nice trattorias all around, at first we were surprised that a food booth would draw such a crowd. Then we looked closer. We chose a sandwich on a roll that was more like a small loaf of rustic Italian bread with your choice of meats (sausage, hamburger, chicken cutlet, sliced pork from a roasted whole pig that was sitting there, beautiful Italian hams and more); vegetables, and you could choose them all, tomato, lettuce, arugula, and grilled onions, zucchini, eggplant, missed peppers and yellow peppers. The best sandwich ever, all for $5.50 euro (a little over $6). Not sure about those claims that Europeans eat smaller portions than we do.
Ironically, if you have a sweet tooth, all you have to do is stop in various candy stores and patisseries nearby and see Italian display at its best.