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Land of Fantasy

November 11, 2010

Cappuccino in Perugia

One of my favorite things about living in Italy was the sense of fantasy that pervaded daily life.  Every day felt like a scene out of a gorgeous movie shot on location.  As my friend Keith, who is living in Florence right now, recently reminded me, “The quality of light is different here.”

It’s true: everything looks better.

Everything tastes better.  The respect and love that Italians show toward food came through in each dish that I ate, whether it was prepared at home or in a restaurant.

My host dad would say that each part of the world flavors their unique cuisine with their water.  The quality of the water varies by region, which affects all of the produce grown there and the meat and the wine produced there.  Italy, home to the Terra Madre conference organized by the Slow Food movement, was slow before anyone knew there was such a thing as fast.

The pace of life in Italy is like something from leisurely, slow-moving dream.

Maybe for that reason, my capacity for wonder increased tremendously during my stay there.

Thanks to for the graphic

When I heard about the Eurochocolate festival run each October in the town of Perugia (in Umbria) by the Perugina chocolate company, I imagined the best.  Perugina is responsible for Baci chocolates (if you haven’t had one, try one today), as well as a host of other chocolate products not commonly available in the U.S.

Luckily for New Yorkers, they will have a booth at the upcoming Holiday Shops at Bryant Park.

My host dad told me there were sculptures of chocolate and swimming pools where you bathed gloriously in chocolate. My lifelong dream!  Of course it would be realized in Italy.  I blissfully believed him.

When I went to the festival, I didn’t see the chocolate baths (they must have been around that far corner, and I didn’t have time to get to them, I thought), but there were wonders aplenty.

Entrance to the Festival

Notice the cutesy play on words above: “ingresso libero” means free entrance, while “ingrasso libero” means free weight gain.  The entrance to the festival was underground, in the massive caves underneath the historic center of the city of Perugia.

One of the countless vendors hawking chocolate-inspired products

Every chocolate maker I had ever heard of (all of the big names–Hershey’s, Nestle, Ferrero Rocher, Cadbury…), plus hundreds of unknown, artigianal, organic, and all-natural brands had stations selling every bar, truffle, molded beauty possible.  The artigianal makers offered delightful combinations like:

  • Lavender, rosemary, and sage-infused chocolate bars
  • The richest cup of hot chocolate I’ve ever tasted
  • Every dried fruit and nut dipped in chocolate (think dried strawberries, dried raspberries, chunks of coconut)
  • Chocolate-flavored pasta (including a recipe for a cream-based almond sauce)
  • Chocolate liqueurs sipped from chocolate shot glasses

There were even a few booths offering free samples (more if you were a pretty American girl):

Chocolate-frenzied Italians rush toward free samples

Chocolate-frenzied Italians rush toward free samples

I have never experienced anything before nor after similar to the hangover I felt the day after the festival.  I think I was sweating chocolate after that day of indulgence and heady pleasure.



4 Comments leave one →
  1. Lindsay Maitland Hunt permalink
    November 11, 2010 4:20 pm

    I read that “make your articles scannable” article too!


  2. November 11, 2010 5:06 pm

    Thanks Lindsay! I think it makes a difference… I loved your pumpkin cheddar muffins, by the way!

  3. ilove0live permalink
    November 12, 2010 11:23 am

    Italy is becoming quite well known for their chocolate production. Did you happen to sample any varieties made by Amadei? Their chocolate is some of the best I’ve ever eaten. For about a year, they were able to import into the U.S. and top pastry chefs in NYC went crazy for it. However, I think the company has run into some export difficulty, so we’ve all had to say good-bye to Amadei for a short while…

    Check out this article from the NY Times. It’s a travel piece about a chocolate tour in Italy. I’d love to follow the writer’s path someday…

  4. November 12, 2010 4:21 pm

    Amadei sounds really familiar, but after I clicked on your link I think it might be because I did read that article back on 07 when it was printed. When I go back to Italy I’ll definitely have to check them out.

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