When you tell an Italian that you are going to Perugia, the first thing that they will think of is chocolate. Or Jazz. But mostly chocolate.
Why do they associate Perugia with chocolate?
Two reasons: A chocolate factory and a chocolate festival.
The Perugina Chocolate Factory
The first reason Italians put Perugia together with chocolate is because it’s home to a chocolate factory, Perugina.
4 men began the Perugina brand in 1907 selling candied almonds. But then world war one broke out.
This left Luisa Spagnoli, the wife of Annibale Spagnoli and one of the four men, to run the business.
In 1917 she added powdered cocoa, and then in 1922 created the Baci.
For a bit of history watch this video on youtube taken in the Perugia factory in 1930. It’s 20 minutes long and in Italian, but it gives you a peek inside Perugia at the time.
Ever wonder about the word confetti? In Italian candied almonds are called confetti. They’re used to celebrate weddings, anniversaries and other special occasions.
Perugia’s Chocolate Factory
Down at the bottom of the hill that Perugia sits on is the Perugina chocolate factory.
In the months leading up to Christmas and Easter, all you smell for blocks around is chocolate.
A Tour of the Perugina Chocolate Factory
While the factory is still in Perugia, it’s now owned by Nestle (since 1988).
You can take a tour of the factory any time of the year. A fun and interesting outing, get ready for all the samples.
Here is their website: Perugina
Price: 9 euros
7 euros for teenagers (13-17) disabled people, and those over 65.
Closed Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Sundays.
Open Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday
Monday, Thursday, Friday 9am till 5.30pm closed from 1-2pm
Saturday 9am till 5.30pm
*you must have reservations*
Getting to the Perugina Factory
If you have a car, it’s one of the few places that you don’t have to worry about parking. There’s a massive parking lot (by Italian standards).
But the roads are all one way with lots of strange roundabouts, so I suggest using a GPS. Whoever did the planning had a lot of fun.
If you’re looking for dinner after there’s a great pizzeria just across the road, La Romantica. (there’s also one in the historic center of Perugia)
They organize buses to bring tourists to the factory from Perugia. Once the museum reopens (closed due to CV-19) I’ll visit for information.
Try making your own chocolates
I’ve taken my parents on a tour of the factory, and it was a great hit. Free samples, a bit of history and a behind the scenes look makes it a fun, interesting outing and an escape visiting to many churches.
Book in advance and book a lesson on how to make chocolates.
In the same building as the factory, you could also take a class on making chocolates. We did this with friends one year and it was definitely a messy experience with enough chocolates to last a few months. Or great presents to give away.
What is Perugina best known for? The Baci.
Bacio means kiss in Italian. Baci are the Italian version of a chocolate kiss.
These chocolates contain hazelnut and chocolate paste with a whole hazelnut on top covered in dark chocolate. Now they come with milk chocolate, white chocolate, or even caramel as a top coat.
These chocolates are great to take home as presents or to enjoy a bit of Perugia after you’ve left.
You’ll find them at most road stops on any Italian highway.
And finally, don’t miss the store at the entrance. They have a beautiful collection of tins of chocolates I’ve seen nowhere else for at a good price.
A note about the amazing Luisa
Born in Perugia in the 1877 to a single mother who supported her family by doing other people’s laundry, Luisa Spagnoli became an amazing business woman.
There’s a clothing line she created named after her, Luisa Spagnoli, that you’ll see in town centers all over Italy.
Luisa Spagnoli had a nursery in the factory so that all the women working could still take care of their young children.
EuroChocolate: A chocolate Festival in Perugia
The second reason Italians associated chocolate with Perugia is because of EuroChocolate.
EuroChocolate is a chocolate festival that takes places every October in Perugia.
Begun in 1993 to celebrate all things chocolate, it’s a popular 10 day event with Italians. Chocolate companies from all over Europe come to sell their products, with prices that sure seem higher, even if they aren’t.
Included are few educational stalls for learning about the history of chocolate and how chocolate is made. Which means it’s popular for school trips.
Yup, you guessed it. Crowds of kids with teachers and parent volunteers trying to coral them together.
With chocolate headlining, this festival has been popular from the beginning. And so hated by locals for the crowds it brings. But not their money.
Italians come from all over the country in tour buses. Perugia is close enough to Rome and Florence that it can be a day trip.
The mini-metro (public transport like a sky train) has line ups for 30 minutes to an hour. A tram arrives every 60 seconds and fits 50 people. That’s why it’s the only time during the year you’ll find lineups.
So when is EuroChocolate?
It’s always held in the second half of October.
Rumour has it that Eurochocolate was created to give the city an economic boost during the low tourist season between summer and Christmas.
And if that’s true, they did a good job. Perugia only comes close to being this crowded during Umbria Jazz in July.
If you don’t want to be in Perugia during this festival, then check on their website (EuroChocolate) for the dates and plan accordingly.
In 2021 the dates are set from Friday October 15th till Sunday October 24th.
Should you visit Perugia for EuroChocolate?
Some people love it. And if your trip to Perugia is purely about seeing all the big commercial chocolate factories in Europe come together, then it’s perfect.
If your plan is to stay in Perugia during Eurochocolate, I would strongly recommend that you book a place to stay at least a month in advance. Things book up fast, especially over the 2 weekends.
The crowds of people in the historic center make sightseeing near impossible. Traffic is a nightmare. Stay sane during the festival by traveling by train or bus and book early.
Honestly, it’s the only time during the year I avoid going to the center of Perugia.
Have I convinced you it’s a terrible idea to see Perugia during Eurochocolate? Sorry. The rest of the year I do suggest stopping by their store in the main piazza, Piazza IV Novembre, for treats and souvenirs.
An alternative to Eurochocolate: Altro Cioccolato in Citta di Castello
If you’re still excited about a chocolate festival while in Italy, and who can blame you, there is an alternative.
‘Altro Cioccolato’ a festival held 45 minutes north of Perugia in a town called Citta di Castello. Here is a link to their website: AltroCioccolato.
Getting there from Perugia is a beautiful drive on a smaller highway.
A three-day weekend, normally the last weekend of Eurochocolate with the slogan ‘where the taste is of cacao’.
A Tour of Perugia’s Chocolate
If you’re looking to purchase chocolates from Perugina, but don’t have the time or interest in visiting the factory, they have a store right in the center of Perugia at Corso Vannucci 110.
Or try and compare with this chocolate maker, La cioccolateria Augusta Perusia. Address: via Pinturicchio 2
I don’t know if they do hot chocolate, but they definitely have gelato.
For a chocolate treat in the winter make sure to try a cioccolata calda, or hot chocolate. These are my two favorite spots in the center.
- l’Antica Latteria. Address: via Baglioni 5, As the name hints at, it’s all about the milk (latte). So have the panna, or whipped cream, on top and try a traditional breakfast sweet bun from Rome, a maritozzi alla panna. Normally closed Sundays. Open from 7am-1pm and 4pm-8pm Mon-Sat
- Gelateria Mastro Cianuri. Address: Via Ruggero D’Andreotto. For hot chocolate in the winter and gelato all year round. They also sell chocolates and espresso. Open every day from 8am to 8pm in the winter, much later hours in the summer months.
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