“One must always find oneself at chocolate festivals.” This is a saying that, if not currently attributed to anyone, may now be designated as mine.
Eurochocolate is an annual event held in the hilltop city of Perugia and is touted as the largest chocolate festival in Italy. As the boy and I delight in being chocolate connoisseurs when not busy with work, and because Perugia happened to be a short three hour train trip away— how could we justify saying no?
On the day of our trip Italy was crippled by a national transport strike, my second strike experience in my ten weeks in Italy. We thus made it a point to arrive extra early at Termini in order to verify that the trains were running, and if they weren’t, we had plans B, C, and D, which were take a bus, rent a car, and walk respectively. The following quote sums up our experience with the Trenitalia help desk nicely:
“You will know the train is cancelled if it doesn’t come.” -Trenitalia Customer Service
After a five-hour wait seated sadly between a homeless lady and her dog, our train arrived! We got on board and were quite happy at this point until we heard another memorable quote:
“If the driver comes, the train will go.” -Trenitalia conductor
So far, so fantastic. Thankfully, the driver did come, and the train did go. And voila, Perugia!
The entire old city of Perugia was covered in chocolate. Stall after stall after stall of tempting chocolate creations by both international and local chocolatiers. My plan of action for two days in chocolate heaven was first, to get a ChocoCard and claim all available freebies on the first day; and second, to spend our second day tasting absolutely everything. Except liquorice.
This plan was excellent. As we arrived on the very first day of Eurochocolate— and because there was a national strike going on— there were very few people and we easily managed to claim all our freebies.
On the second day, it was madness. I was actually terrified of the massive crowd of people, but thankfully my boy was there to hide behind and we managed to get such a large haul of loot that it took two trips back to the hotel to deposit the chocolatey goodness.
Tips for people thinking of heading to Eurochocolate:
- If you plan on staying a few days, book a hotel right now. Prices rise steeply and when I had booked ours, it was already the last room available. (Low floor, facing a high-traffic roundabout, you get the idea.)
- The same goes for train tickets. Also, there are no reserved seats so good luck with that!
- Get a Chococard. The card itself is worth 5€ and is good for an entry discount (you need to pay an entry fee and get your card validated), a raffle ticket, so many freebies and free tastes, and is excellent fun since you need to hunt down the tents that give out said freebies. The card also offers discounts at select stalls as well as promos with participating restaurants and hotels.
- Get all your freebies as soon as possible! If you can arrive on day one then great, but if not, the flow of people wanes at around half-past four and the festival is open until eleven in the evening, so nighttime is a good time.
- At some point you will tire of chocolate. Be warned, the restaurants around the festival area are extremely overpriced and the serving sizes are the smallest I’ve seen in Rome. Take advantage of the “Chocolate Buffets” many hotels offer, and you can get a full buffet meal for 13€ (not to worry, it’s not just chocolate).
Perhaps more than giving us chocolate, just experiencing the beauty of Perugia made me want to drop everything and return to the arts. What if I left my PhD and took up painting instead? What if every morning I could wake up, take my brushes, and simply let go of all worries? Of course, this is a highly irresponsible course of action and not practical at all with the state of today’s economy but it was a welcome, if brief, imaginary life.