Perugia’s Eurochocolate fair is sweet success

October 25th, 2008 | by Ainsley |

Rome and Turin are the more famous tourist hotspots, but their chocolate fairs in February and March next year have a tough ‒ if sweet – act to follow.

Perugia’s Eurochocolate 2008, which ends on October 26, has shown why it is arguably the continent’s premier confectionery festival.

The nine-day event, which Umbria’s famous hilltown capital has hosted since 1993, this year drew around 150 chocolate companies and more than a million sweet-toothed visitors.

Apart from being able to sample chocolate of every variety imaginable, there was an even more mouth-watering collection than usual of giant outdoor sculptures made of the stuff – from a 3,600kg igloo to a life-sized cow by Swiss manufacturers Milka. Not to be outdone, fellow Swiss chocolate firm Toblerone weighed in with a 100kg bar to mark its centenary.

Also on show was a mammoth chess set with board and pieces in white and brown chocolate – possibly one of the few occasions when playing a game could spell checkmate for your figure. Darts aside, that is.

Just as well that organisers laid on a six-mile walk as part of the festivities as well as a health spa with beauty treatments all made from chocolate, perhaps giving new meaning to the phrase “looking good enough to eat”.

Visitors were also able to watch five sculptors at work, each moulding a 1,100kg artwork. Little wonder that one reporter at the festival compared herself to Charlie Bucket, the boy who wins a free ticket to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory in Roald Dahl’s classic children’s book.

Play Chocolate was the theme of this year’s show and supremo Eugenio Guarducci said he hoped it would serve as a welcome distraction from the current worldwide economic gloom. He explained: “At a difficult time, we’re waiting for all chocolate lovers to come and play with us and chocolate.”

But chocolate is serious business too. One conference heard experts present evidence from a recent Perugia University study showing that one 30g bar of dark chocolate a day is good for pregnant women as it curbs their cholesterol, high blood pressure and the risk of anaemia.

And a meeting attended by manufacturers from around the world debated the problems of maintaining production quality while adhering to environmental and ethical best practice.

But there was also the downright offbeat. One seminar heard how cocoa could power the cars of the future.

And Tuscan-born artist designer Cinzia Verni showed off a new range of clothing made from confectionery wrappers. As they will doubtless be saying in the fashion bibles before long: The new black? It’s actually chocolate brown, sweetie…

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