It’s now November, and the summer festival season in Italy is coming to a close. However, as always, it goes out with a bang – Cioccolandia, a day long festival of fabulous chocolate!
Willy Wonka could learn a lot from this festival! Every year the town of Castel San Giovanni turns into a chocolate lover’s delight. There’s stall upon stall and street upon street of anything and everything that you could ever want made of chocolate.
As it was a chilly day, the first port of call was for a cup of hot chocolate. Now, this is unlike anything that you may get in the UK. It is not made of powdered chocolate from a tin. It’s liquid chocolate that is so thick that your cheeks are sucked in so hard trying to drink it, and eventually you have to resort to the supplied spoon to get every last morsel of piping hot chocolate out of the cup.
My first port of call when I go to a chocolate festival are the truffle stalls, as these are a good guide to the quality of chocolate on offer. You won’t be surprised to learn that the Italians take their truffles very, very seriously. They produce the normal milk, dark and white truffles, but they also produce a myriad of other flavours. On one single stall they had pistachio, coconut, malibu, hazlenut, and my particular favourite, with chillies!
After buying enough truffles to give a small child (and a large child being myself ) a chocolate rush, I had a look round the other stalls. As far as the eye could see, there were stalls of nougat (torrone in Italian.) This is also a favourite in Italy, and also has its own festival in a town near me called Cremona.
Other stalls had mountains of cremino, filled chocolate rolls, marron glace, thin wafers of chocolate covered with choices of different flavours and row upon row of delicious macarons.
Entry to this festival of chocolate was only €1, which is a bargain it itself. However, your entry allowed you to a tasting from 250 metres of chocloate salami, 6,000 profiteroles, 25,0000 portions of cremino, 4,000 meringue di Montebianco, and 3,000 portions of Torta Rita, whose recipe is still a closely guarded secret!
Technically speaking, your entry fee was supposed to allow you one tasting from each stall, but I followed the lead of the locals, and just kept going round each of the stalls having another tasting until my stomach was fit to burst, and my blood sugar level was at an all time high!
I then decided to call it a day mid-evening when the inevitable sugar crash started to happen, but I was a very, very happy boy on the way home! I love you Italy, but with all these food festivals I will be the size of a house fairly shortly!