The annual Eurochocolate festival in Perugia is one of the modern food 'sagre' which has caught the attention of everyone .. and who doesn't like chocolate!
It's difficult to wait a whole year for the return of this delicious event, but the festival takes place every October taking over the whole of the historical centre of the capital of Umbria.
Turin, Rome and even Naples at Christmas have held big chocolate events in recent years, but the one in Perugia is now a mammoth 10 day affair and worth a visit. Just make sure you don't need to take the last train home to Rome over the weekends.
This event goes from strength to strength and once a taste has been acquired for real dark chocolate, you won't want to pick up a Milky Bar again.
To give you an idea of the scope of the event the chocolate themed initiatives include: Choco Island, Eurochocolate World, ChcoDeliShoes, Choco Video Room, Tuscan Chocolate Valley and our favourite the 'Spalm Beach' where you can learn about the whole range of chocolate spreads.
Also look out for the new Eurochcolate line of gadgets with a digital theme called 'ichoc'.
There a many free seminars for the visitor and during our last visit we attended one dedicated to chocolate and wine. The secret is to enjoy your meal by drinking progressively older, stronger, sweeter and more aromatic wines.
Having tried a handful of desserts wines at the seminar, the culmination of the perfect meal could possibly be a Barolo Chinato d.o.c.g. This wine is produced in a small zone of the Langhe in the province of Cuneo, Piemonte, and is fabulously aged in oak barrels with added cinnamon, aniseed, cardamom and other spices.
The majority of the seminars take place at the 'Università dei Sapori' or 'University of Flavor' which runs training programmes for young people interested in working in the food industry and marketing support for the food retail industry.
See also Walking tour of Perugia
Dan Hostetler adds:
Euro Chocolate Festival of Perugia is an annual event lasting a week from mid October and dedicated to cocoa sweetmeat for which this ancient Etruscan town is world famous. Some 300,000 sweet-toothed visitors devour 50 tons of the high-calorie indulgence during the nine-day blow-out which includes chocolate tasting in cafes and in historical theaters, theme shows and workshops, cinematic presentations featuring sweet-toothed characters and lectures featuring nutritionists.
The town is extremely proud of their Perugia Chocolate Museum where entrance is free during the week of festivities. Visitors can walk along Corso Vanucci taking in the incredible sight of artists sculpting 1,000 kilogram-blocks of chocolate into art. Clean sheets of canvas are placed under the pedestals so that onlookers can pick up and eat the slivers of chocolate that fall from the carving.
In 1998, this festival hit worldwide headlines when Slovenian supermodel Brigitta dunked herself, nude, into an Art Deco bathtub full of chocolate where she sat for a few minutes before emerging, covered, like Botticelli's Venus, by a chocolate shell. 1999 events include the knocking over of a 6 foot-high, 55 foot-long chocolate block wall (commemorating the 10th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall) and a giant hot-air balloon made out of Lindt chocolate that can be sampled. The creative limits of the architect and founder of this festival, Eugenio Guarducci, know no boundaries.
Piazza Italia is a good point of departure for an exploration of the city's cultural and gastronomic traditions. During the two weekends of the festival, the Chocotram will pass every hour to connect the two main piazzas of the city with parking facilities. On board, chocolates and other treats are handed out. It's a delightful event for both the casual chocolate-lover and the hard-core chocoholic alike.