This weekend, I traveled with a group of friends to the International Chocolate Exhibition in Perugia, Italy otherwise known as the Eurochocolate Festival.
That’s right, folks. An entire festival dedicated to chocolate.
And what a magical place it was. Rows upon rows of tents and display cases filled with everything chocolate related you could possibly imagine.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
I first heard about the Chocolate Festival from my mentor, whom I was paired with through the Leo Block Alumni Center at DU. She happened to study abroad in Rome as well during her college years and gave me tons of great tips, among them a fervent “GO TO THE CHOCOLATE FESTIVAL.” That wasn’t something I had to ponder. It immediately went on my to-do list.
There were many ways for my fellow abroad students and I to get to Perugia (where the festival is held every year in the Fall). We wound up choosing to sign up with a program called Bus2Alps which is frequently used by study abroad students in Europe to travel to various festivals (Oktoberfest, namely) and weekend or extended trips. The tickets cost us €38 each (about $50) and included a tour bus with a bathroom and movie to and from the festival, metro passes, a chocolate card (more on this later), and basically just the comfort of having someone hold our hand through the whole traveling thing. Initially we were also considering just figuring out the journey for ourselves, which would have been inexpensive but potentially difficult to navigate by ourselves. We ultimately decided the help of Bus2Alps was worth the cost. However, the Res Grads program at the American University of Rome (the largest student organization on campus that plans cheap activities for students to participate in) was also offering an organized expedition that basically would have just led us there via train, without charging us anything extra. I think going with the Res Grads probably would have been best, but unfortunately they advertised it after we had already bought our Bus2Alps tickets.
Anyways, we found ourselves in Perugia one way or another on Friday and I was quite impressed with the city itself. This was not our first time in the Umbria region of Italy as we visited the small town of Assisi about a month ago. In a previous post, I alluded to the fact that the trip to Assisi was less than a pleasurable experience for us, but Perugia was very different. It’s a much more developed city, complete with a “MiniMetro” system that made me feel like I was suddenly in an episode of Futurama.
Once we stepped off our “rollercoaster,” we found ourselves in the Centro Storico (or historic center) of Perugia, converted into a giant open-air market of chocolate goodness.
But of course, the best part of the chocolate festival was not just looking, nor even smelling the heavenly aromas of the chocolate, but actually eating it.
As I mentioned before, Bus2Alps took care of the €5 cost for the Chocolate Card. It’s essentially a punch card for free goodies at a select few stands at the festival. It took us a while to figure out that they had maps available that pointed out which stands were participating. By flashing our cards, we got free Lindt chocolate truffles, hot chocolate, chocolate euro coins, coupons, and even a phone case shaped like a chocolate bar. To be honest, most of the gifts were nothing to write home about, but hey, it was FREE CHOCOLATE.
We expected a lot more free samples though, so I do recommend that anyone who attends the festival comes prepared to drop some cash. I assure you that it will be impossible to not indulge in certain items, like my Nutella+arancia (candied orange peel) crepe that I had for lunch (yes, Mom, I do call that a balanced lunch diet).
See that hot chocolate? All of the “cioccolata calda” in Italy is as thick as pudding. It’s essentially like drinking hot brownie batter. I don’t know how many calories it has and I don’t wanna know.
My second word of advice is to bring a water bottle. I hate to admit it, but I did eventually get sick of chocolate and wished I had something to wash it down.
Third piece of advice: this was an excellent place to buy souvenirs for loved ones. Despite a lot of the wares being, obviously, chocolate and therefore prone to melting, there were also lots of chocolate-themed trinkets, t-shirts, and even melt-proof food goods like cocoa pasta and chocolate liqueur.
The chocolate festival was, albeit fattening, an awesome experience. The people were friendly, the city was beautiful, and the “noms” were delicious. If you’re looking for indulgence while traipsing through Europe in Autumn, look no further than the Eurochocolate Festival.
P.S. We topped off a day of eating nothing but chocolate with dinner at McDonald’s. That’s what I call a day of indulgence. Sorry, Mom.
Chow for now,
– Cheyenne Michaels, DUSA Blogger -