Turn up your taste buds and mark your calendar because the Turin Chocolate Fair, CioccolaTO 2013, is coming up hot the first two weeks in March 2013. During this time the Piazza Vittorio Veneto area in the middle of Turin is filled with booths and tents where all things chocolate are cooked up, shaped, filled, topped, dipped, shaved and poured to perfection.
Turin is a city that’s proud of its chocolate to the extent that the symbol of Turin is a chocolate shaped like a boat and called the gianduiotto. Turin’s own best known chocolate treats include chocolate combined with hazelnuts and liqueur injected chocolates.
Turin has been making chocolates for more than three hundred years beginning back in 1678 when Turinese chocolatier Gio Antonio Ari was granted the first license to make chocolate. As a result, Turin became the first center for the production and consumption of chocolate in Italy. Turin’s chocolate industry and its major companies such as Ferrero, Streglio and Caffarel have acquired a worldwide fan base. It is also home to a number of master chocolatiers who run small artisan chocolate companies.
In the 18th century Turin was the birthplace of a hot beverage concocted from coffee, cocoa and cream that they named Bicerin. Here at home when these three ingredients are mixed we call it mocha, but it is Bicerin that originated and set the bar high for this beverage.
Chocolate in a solid form wasn’t available until the 19th century, when experiments in Turin resulted in blending cocoa with sugar, water and vanilla for a mixture that would cool down to a solid. The result of this discovery led the way to chocolate bars, truffles, pralines and liqueur filled creams that we enjoy today. Turin’s first individually wrapped chocolate bonbon was invented in 1865 when Michele Prochet mixed cocoa with hazelnuts and called them gianduiotto.
The CioccolaTO festival attracts exhibitors from throughout the region and beyond. It also attracts thousands of visitors. If the past is any footnote to the future, more than 85,000 lbs. of chocolate will be consumed during this year’s CioccolaTO.
According to Nielson research data about 48 million pounds of chocolate are sold during Valentine’s week in the US alone and the week leading up to Easter actually tops that number at 71 million pounds. That’s a lot of chocolates made from the more than 3 million tons, yes tons, of cocoa beans that are processed into chocolate each year.
Connoisseurs and chocolate lovers who come to Turin especially for this event mingle with locals and tourists who may be in town for other reasons, but are delighted to find out that a chocolate festival is in full swing.
The festival provides visitors with more than just some very satisfying taste sensations. It also includes educational opportunities for anyone wanting to know more about chocolate from actually watching as chocolates are made to learning how to pair chocolate with wine. As with most food categories, and certainly with chocolate, there is a quest to learn what’s new and how to better appreciate all of its traditional forms.
Even those who shy away from calorie laden forms of chocolate are very much on board with a little dark chocolate treat. It’s a healthy treat loaded with antioxidants.
Don’t think for a moment that the Turin tourism board hasn’t thought of everything. They’ll be ready with information on how to get there, where to stay, what else to see in the area, and their much-in-demand Chocopasses. What’s a Chocopass? It’s your ticket to eat chocolate by purchasing a 10 sampling/24-hr. pass or a 15 sampling/48-hr. pass to use during the festival.
The CioccolaTO is not just about tasting, shopping and learning about chocolate. The event also has competitions for its chocolatiers and the central part of Turin creates a festival atmosphere with music and other chocolate themed entertainment. In years past while booth hopping at the festival, visitors have been able to conveniently work in onsite spa breaks centered around, you guessed it, chocolate.
Because the festival is held in the city’s center visitors will probably want to stay in one of Turin’s hotels that are close to the festival. They’ll have many fine choices from the 5-star Hotel Principi di Piemonte that is also near the train station for those arriving by rail; the 4-star Mercure Torino Crystal Palace; and the 3-star Hotel Alpi Resort. On hotels.com prices for Turin’s city center hotels range from $274/night to less than $100/night. Any hotel in the city center is also convenient to top museums and historic sites in Turin such as the Royal Palace.
Chocolate aside, Turin is an interesting place to explore with stunning architecture, art and many temptations for the palate. For more information on the festival and the city visit these sites: cioccolato.it, slowitaly.yourguidetoitaly.com, thriftytraveling.com and comune.torino.it.