As of Friday, February 7th, 2014, all hopes of keeping up the post-Christmas diet have been quashed as Florence Italy’s Santa Maria Novella square is enriched with the hypnotising smell of chocolate. Yes, the Artisan Chocolate Fair is in town and will be sticking around until February 16th, so make sure not to miss this wonderful collection of Italy’s sinful snacks.
Three tents house over twenty of the finest chocolatiers in the country, as they offer up their culinary creations to the Florentine public for a short-but-sweet ten-day period. Piazza Santa Maria Novella is full of cheeky grins as chocolates of all forms are devoured, samples are gobbled up and edible presents are bought for those “special someones” in the run up to Valentine’s Day.
As the event tends to get really busy, it is wise to know what to look for before you arrive. So to make your trip a little easier, I spoke with some of the chocolate exhibitors to bring you a taste of what’s on offer.
This Venetian company, established in 1960, started out only creating liquors, but thankfully, twenty years ago, they made the wise step to becoming masters of chocolate.
Tina, who runs the stall at the fair, said that she joined the company because she loves chocolate and the joy that it brings to people.
Their most difficult product: Hand-painted chocolate masks and shoes
Tina’s favourite: Orange and cinnamon dark chocolate
The Sample: A pleasantly surprising combination of flavours for the pallet. The citrus in the oranges offsets the intensity of the dark chocolate and the subtle undertones of cinnamon tie it all together.
Via Chiesanouva, 91
Venice, Italy – 30027
The Di Maria cioccolateria and confetteria opened its doors in 1979, in Naples, and has since been creating a wide range of luscious treats. I spoke with Dominco at their stall.
Dominco’s favourite: Macaroons
The sample: Pistachio cremino
This chocolate certainly lives up to its name (“cremino” means “cream”), as the velvety flavours literally melt in your mouth. The nutty taste of pistachio is infused perfectly, making it exceedingly moreish (i.e. you want more – it’s a real word, American-English speakers)
C.da Pesco Farese, 23 – 24
Sweet & Chocolate
Valentino used to work in IT before he opted for a career change and co-founded Sweet & Chocolate 20 years ago in Turin.
The most difficult product: Nocciola
These small, rounded chocolate bites come in a variety of flavours and take around 7 hours to make.
Valentino’s favourite: Chocolate salami
Looks like the real thing until it’s cut open to reveal a chocolate and biscuit centre
The sample: Nocciola Tartufata
A whole hazelnut wrapped in layers of chocolate and cacao powder. There is a satisfying crunch as you bite into these miniaturised munchies, followed by pleasant undertones of bitterness from the dark chocolate – making them all the more addictive.
Via Giuseppe Giusti, 3
Turin, Italy – 10121
Unfortunately, I didn’t speak enough Italian to talk with the owner at this stall, however, I was able to sample their products (and they were fantastic).
The sample: Croccante nocciole latte
A layer of hazelnut milk chocolate complimented this nutty brittle perfectly. Tastes similar to that of Nutella and peanut butter are present but are delivered with a crunch.
Paolo Lorenzi, from the South of Italy, decided to take his life in a different direction 6 years ago and left his job to study the art of creating chocolates, in France.
Their most difficult product: Liquor and chocolate bon-bons. These little balls of chocolate are filled with yummy alcohol centres and take over a week to create!
Paolo’s favourite: Macaroons
These meringue sandwich cookies are available in a wide range of colours and flavours, and take one day to make.
The sample: Havana Club bon-bon
An initial crunch through the sweet and nutty chocolate casing leads you to the pleasant punch of liquid Havana Club rum in the middle, which neutralises the sugary taste.
Cell: 333 895 7889
This Lucca-based cioccolato is a result of a collaboration with a chocolatier from Perugia. I spoke to Frederico, who’s motivation for joining the Cavalsani crew was his love of chocolate and travelling.
Their most difficult product: Cremino
The tasty batches of cremino take over two hours to prepare.
Frederico’s favourite: Bianco Banana Chocolate
The sample: The Bianca Banana chocolate was a perfect balance of dark chocolate, white chocolate and real pieces of dried banana. Super sweet, it’s great as a small treat or to share with friends.
V.le San Concordio, 425
Lucca, Italy 55100
Ficodi started creating chocolate and fruit liquors as well a range of jams in 1970. Nicola, the co-founder, says that he started the company because he has a passion for the typical Sicilian products that he sells.
Their most difficult product: The range of chocolate liquors takes over a year to create due to the long fermenting process.
Nicola’s favourite: White chocolate and pistachio liquor
The sample: This liquor had a thick, creamy texture and nutty flavour, followed by a subtle kick from the alcohol.
Via Raffaello Sanzio, 161
Gagliano, Castel Ferrato, Italy
These scrumptious stalls are just a selection of the vendors at the Artisan Chocolate Fair. There are also a lot of other activities to be found there such as chocolate face painting, an exhibition on dying clothes in chocolate, and a special apertivo every night.
For more pictures of the fair and a timetable of events, please see Natalie’s photo article here.
And maybe this valentine’s day play a little game with your friends or special someone while you’re enjoying all the amazing chocolate you just purchased!