Yet another reason why I believe that Italy was made for me– the Perugia Chocolate Festival is a real, in-the-flesh, once-a-year occurrence.
Ever since I heard about this mystical being, I made it my quest to get there. On my list of “must-see” places that I keep, alongside Transylvania and Oxford University, is the annual Eurochocolate of Perugia, located in Umbria, where this gourmet chocolate is famous. So when the last two weeks in October came around that the Festival fell on and my grandma Sissel and my cousin Kristin happened to be visiting me in Florence, I literally begged them to come (not that it takes much begging to get people to come with you to eat chocolate all day long).
A two-and-a-half hour train ride will get you from Florence in Tuscany to Perugia in Umbria, often with a transfer in Terantola-Cortona (because for some reason, Umbria is lacking in a lot of public transportation). This doesn’t sound like too much. But when you’re hungry for chocolate and you’re sitting on a dirty bus, it kind of is.
When we first got to Perugia, I was feeling a little sorry for my friends who have studied abroad there, because the ground near the train station isn’t very pretty (but then again, when is it near public transportation). However, after taking a bus to Piazza Italia, where the Festival takes place, the views get some better.
Unfortunately, the sites that I read about the Festival didn’t lie when they said it was a bit commercialized. There really aren’t any free samples so it’s not like the free-for-all I was imagining, and it’s more or less just a ton of booths with overpriced goodies lying about. REALLY overpriced. We walked up and down the streets the Festival resides on (doesn’t take more than an hour, really) and then decided what we wanted and went back and got it. One chocolate splurge while you’re in Perugia is worth the seven or eight euros, even though I wouldn’t have minded a Triple Chocolate Meltdown from Applebee’s, either.
However, one thing that is cool about this Festival is that even if you can’t afford to buy it all, you can see all the mouthwatering things they can make with chocolate, all of the huge bars of it swarming with bees, stuffed with hazelnut and coconut in a variety of colors. And there’s also the grandiose displays– the classic Chocolate cars, the giant Lindt dancing bears and the boxes of Baci chocolate that are as big as my house.
Unfortunately, this too sticks out to me as extra touristy– why not give the little family shops a try, a chance to make something really cool for us all to see? This is what Italy is about– kicking the big bullies out and keeping the quaint and quality-ridden shops in. This is why you won’t see too many chain restaurants or other chain companies roaming around Italy. Instead of boo-hooing your way about the cliche tourism that is Eurochocolate, though, eat your chocolate bar, shut up, and then get back on the train.