Think of Switzerland or Belgium when you think of gourmet chocolates? Close but not quite. Go a little further South to Turin in Piedmont and you have found the home of fine chocolate.
It was in Turin that eating chocolate, as opposed to drinking chocolate, was invented by a certain Mr Doret - the Willy Wonka of Italian chocolate.
Caffarel then began the world's very first first commercial production and they are still making Caffarel chocolates the same way today. The praline too, much copied by the Swiss, was invented in Turin. What the Swiss are to watches the Torinese are to fine chocolates.
Many of the chocolates are made by hand by tiny producers. Some make chocolates for only twenty or so local shops and a few restaurants.
The chocolate is so fresh it's often only sold in the winter as it doesn't keep well in summer.
Except for Caffarel very few of the best names can be bought outside of Italy. In fact many can only be bought in Turin. Yet another reason to visit this incredible city.
The best of all the chocolates, and I have eaten plenty in order to be sure, is the Gianduiotto. Gianduitto is a delightful mix of toasted Piedmont hazelnuts and cocoa. Taste it once, and you're hooked. Peyrano Pfatish, Baratti & Milano, Gobino and Caffarel make the best,
The creamy version of Gianduitto, which is also from Piedmont, and has conquered the world, is Nutella, made by Ferrero Rocher chocolates. It's great, but to be honest, it is not a patch on the Peyrano, Caffarel or Gobino creations.
Lovers of chocolate—that's you, I know—really must visit during the two-week gourmet chocolate festival in March.
The Turin Chocolate Festival, also known as "CioccolaTò," is an annual celebration of chocolate. This gastronomic extravaganza attracts chocolate lovers from all over the world to indulge in the finest cocoa creations and experience the rich tradition of chocolate-making in Piedmont.
The festival typically takes place in the historic center of Turin, where streets and squares are transformed into bustling chocolate markets and exhibition spaces. Visitors have the opportunity to sample a wide array of chocolate delights, from artisanal pralines and truffles to decadent chocolate sculptures and themed desserts.
Throughout the festival, chocolatiers and pastry chefs showcase their skills through live demonstrations, workshops, and tastings, offering insights into the artistry and craftsmanship behind chocolate-making.
For chocoholics, this is pure heaven; in addition to happy memories, it will also ensure you take home a few extra pounds.
Do pop into Baratti & Milano too. Established in 1858, it has a rich history of crafting exquisite chocolates, pastries, and confections. The café is famous for its decadent hot chocolate, which is thick and creamy, almost like a warm chocolate pudding. Visitors often indulge in this luxurious treat paired with freshly baked pastries, such as brioche or croissants.
Aside from its hot chocolate, Baratti & Milano offers a wide selection of handmade chocolates, pralines, and truffles, each meticulously crafted using high-quality ingredients. Baratti & Milano invented the Cremino, which is a delicious mixture of two gianduja layers filled with a chocolate or hazelnut cream center.
The shop's elegant décor, with its marble tables and plush seating, creates a charming atmosphere perfect for enjoying a leisurely coffee break or afternoon tea. They do great coffee too, although some of our American friends have complained they don't do those big Starbucks-style coffees to go. That is just the way Italy is, so let's celebrate our differences and give their coffee and chocolates a try. You will love the coffee and the chocolate.
Oh, and don’t forget to have some chocolate in liquid form as well, with a glass of Bicerin. The Bicerin is a dreamy delight—a Piedmont chocolate original made of layers of coffee, chocolate, and cream.
If you're ready for chocolate heaven in a glass, then the best place to try a Bicerin is, as the name suggests, Al Bicerin in Piazza Consolata. This marvelous café was once the favorite haunt of Puccini and Alexander Dumas, and, although it is expensive, you simply have to experience a Bicerin here.
Visiting Al Bicerin is not just about enjoying a drink; it's an immersive experience steeped in tradition and history. The café's cozy interior, with its vintage décor and charming ambiance, transports you back in time to an era of elegance and refinement.
I hope to see you soon in Piedmont. If you enjoy gourmet chocolates, Piedmont is the place to be.