This past weekend, I went to the 25th Annual Eurochocolate Festival in Perugia, Italy, a week long festival dedicated completely to chocolate! As a lover of anything sweet and a huge chocolate fan, you could only imagine how excited I was to find out that this was taking place during my study abroad in Florence, and I had to go.
We arrived at the bus station in Perugia on Sunday morning, and followed the large crowds toward the city center. We were surprised to walk through an ancient, underground stone city to get there, equipped with escalators and even dotted with a few museums in the dusky stone tunnels!
Upon ascending from the underground tunnels, we were met with rows and rows of tents, full of chocolate in its many forms. The tents really seemed to go forever! To begin, we went to a main reception tent to buy our Chococards, which, for only 6 Euros, got us samples from a ton of different booths, a drawstring bag to hold our bounties, and discounts at the official Eurochocolate store.
We then started exploring the numerous booths, with companies such as Lindt, Ricola, Pernigotti, and Perugia’s own Baci Perugina. We soon made our way to the festival food area, and ate some delicious Italian fried foods, like potato croquette, fried mozzarella balls, and fried chicken. We ate at the edge of the crowded piazza, overlooking the beautiful residential outskirts of Perugia.
After whetting our appetite a bit, we continued around the festival, searching for our free chocolate samples and exploring tent after tent, including gift shops, hot chocolate in souvenir mugs, artisanal soft fudges, crepes, waffles, chocolate on fruit and even chocolate kebabs! What a paradise!
The most memorable event at the festival was the chocolate sculptures. Because it was the first Sunday of the festival, there were several tents where artists carved enormous sculptures out of chocolate. Large crowds would gather around the tents, and as the artists carved away the chocolate, the small pieces of chocolate would fly everywhere. The artists and their assistants would collect the chocolate shards into gift bags and throw them into the crowd. After waiting a bit, my friends and I finally caught some bags to share and went on our way.
As we walked along the crowded streets, we also noticed the ancient, medieval looking buildings that lined each side, beautifully juxtaposed against the bustling modern festivities below. We arrived to the other end of the Eurochocolate Festival at Piazza IV Maggiore with the large Fontana Maggiore, and surrounded by the medieval Palazzo dei Priori and gothic Cathedral of S. Lorenzo. We stopped at the Eurochocolate Store, the official gift shop, and I bought some cocoa pasta to give as gifts to family.
On our way back through Festival, we stumbled upon a food stand that was selling plates of fresh cocoa gnocchi with a cheese sauce and topped with walnuts and shaved chocolate, which they prepared right in front of you. It was quite delicious, and the cocoa provided a unique, deep and rich flavor that was completely unexpected!
We then left the main center of the city and explored a bit of the residential neighborhood and small restaurants. The streets were much calmer and narrower, and the city was actually quite big. Unfortunately a huge rainstorm appeared just then, and we made our way back to the city center and took cover under some porticoes while sipping hot chocolate.
When the rain finally let up a little, we headed back to the bus station. A little wet, but our bags full of chocolate and our stomachs content, we headed back home to Florence after a fun filled day.