I am saying all this as a great admirer of chocolate and as a person who cannot live without chocolate even for a single day. I am absolutely sure I am not the only chocolate-lover on Earth. There are millions of people who share the passion for “xocolātl” (this is the name of the bitter, hot, chocolate beverage which the Mayans, Aztecs and other Mesoamerican people prepared from the seed of the tropical cacao tree). Then owing to Christopher Columbus and Spanish Conquistadors chocolate was introduced and imported to the Old Continent so that nowadays we can enjoy a great variety of chocolate sweets with the greatest pleasure and sweetly express our love for someone like the Italians do.
Yes, it’s true that the Italian way to say “Ti amo”or “Ti voglio bene” is through chocolate and especially through the iconic Italian confections – Baci. Baci (plural) stands for kisses and is the name of the world famous chocolates produced nowhere else but on the Perugian hills, close to St. Valentine’s historic home. It’s lovely, isn’t it? 🙂 For sure, it is. After hearing the legendary storia d’amore (love story) of the confections, they will seem even more appealing to you. And it goes like this.
Luisa Spagnoli was a co-founder of Perugina. She was deeply in love with a man (gossips say that this guy was Giovanni Buitoni – the young heir of the Perugina Empire). She wanted to express her strong feelings for him but at the same their love had to remain a secret. That’s why in 1922 Luisa started to write tiny and secret love notes wrapped around each chocolate she sent for inspection to her lover. Very soon Federico Seneca (the Art Director of Perugina) suggested that this tradition should go on and each confection should have its own message expressing sentiments of amore (love), affetto (affection) and amicizia (friendship). Thus nowadays Baci Perugina is not only a heart of gianduia blended with more chopped hazelnuts, crowned with a whole hazelnut and seductively dipped in silky dark or white chocolate but a herald of love.
Maybe now you’re wondering what gianduia is and what it stands for. I even guess that you don’t know how it’s pronounced. Well, let me say a few things about it, then. In the beginning Gianduia [zhan-DO-yuh] was a marionette of the Commedia dell’arte during Napoléon’s regency in the 18th – 19th centuries. The puppet was a peasant from the Northern Italian region of Piedmont whose capital city is Turin. This character symbolized civic pride and honesty, as well as indulging in food & drinks. And all of these features made Gianduia a favourite and main character of the Carnival at the riotous times of 1865. During these pre-Lent feasts gianduiotti [zhee-an-DWO-tee] were “born”. They were individually wrapped plump confections that were very soft and made of chocolate and a hazelnut paste with sugar added (but without milk). Or in other words, Gianduia is that creamy chocolate-hazelnut combination that is so widely used in the confectionery nowadays. I even can call it “the grandparent” of today’s milk chocolate bar, Nutella and confections like the classical Pernigotti Gianduiotti and Baci Perugina.
Finally, I could only say that all this is so yummy yummy, as well as I would like to give you a humble piece of advice. Mind l’amore dolce (the sweet love) and try not to leave your love Baci in the fridges of the hotels where you stay like it happened to me in Venice and Bologna some years ago. 😛