(October 19, 2015) The annual Eurochocolate International Chocolate Exhibition, held in Perugia each year, is one of the largest exhibitions of chocolate in Europe, and draws thousands of visitors to sample the wide variety of products presented by hundreds of vendors. Bill and Shelley Trowell, Paola and Leonardo and I chose a weekday afternoon and evening to visit the festival, doing our best to avoid the impossible crowds on the bookend weekends of the event.
We arrived in the afternoon and began to explore the booths—filled with chocolate specialties of every kind. There were chocolate shot glasses, all sorts of fondant and flavored chocolates (orange, mint, hot chili, cherry), and chocolates filled with espresso, grappa, limoncello and a wide variety of flavored liquors. Many of the vendors were happy to give small samples to taste, while others carefully guarded their products, and insisted on purchases without samples.
All of us spent hours browsing, talking to vendors and searching out specific products. Leonardo and I searched together for the hottest chili-spiced chocolate that we could find—sampling about 6 different sources before deciding on the hottest available, the most “piccante.” Shelley and Bill were looking for treats to take home and share, but we all were just enjoying the carnival atmosphere in a cloud of the aroma of chocolates of all types.
Later, we ran into Giorgia, Arianna and baby Stella—Leonardo and Paola’s daughters and granddaughter—and they joined us for the rest of the evening. Even with all of the chocolate that we were enjoying, Paola and Shelley are always “up” for gelato, so we had to make a stop and enjoy cones of our favorite flavors.
Finally we reached the principal piazza, with Perugia’s landmark fountain, and the site of a 250 kg. solid dark chocolate moustache (i baffi), representing the theme of this year’s festival. We had seen many vendors with chocolate moustache candies for sale, and had been stopped on the street by an event staffer, who loaned Shelley and me each a moustache-on-a-stick for photos—with him in the photo, too. I suppose he was a “fun ambassador” of some kind, adding to the clowns and balloon animal creators roaming the crowds.
I was a bit out of my element, as one who eats very little chocolate by choice, but I had to make exceptions for such interesting types of chocolate candies and flavors. This was certainly not an event for moderation! We all left filled, for once, with all of the chocolate that we could eat—but with plenty to take home for later.