In Italy, a chocolate festival means enjoying the "food of the gods" in endless variations: white to extra-dark, fruity and nutty, as candies, truffles, bars, and hot chocolate

Let’s begin with some facts:

  1. Chocolate is adored the world over,
  2. Italy is a country dedicated to its food traditions, and
  3. Italians love to celebrate those traditions.

Taken together, these delicious pieces of information add up to give the chocolate-loving traveler in Italy a variety of chocolate festivals to attend throughout the country each year. Depending on your degree of chocoholism, you might structure an entire trip around a festival or three – or, at the very least, incorporate one into an existing itinerary.

The best-known chocolate festival in Italy (and throughout Europe) is in Perugia, but there are several other celebrations of chocolate in other Italian cities. Some focus on a regional specialty flavor or style of chocolate, while others invite chocolate makers from all over the country to bring their very best goodies. Vendors offer free samples, there are often workshops or demonstrations to attend, and the air actually smells of cocoa.

It’s just as wonderful as you might imagine.

Here is an overview of five of Italy’s most popular chocolate festivals. Save some room in your suitcase for the sweet treats you’ll bring home.

Note: Although the dates of Italy’s chocolate festivals change each year, they all take place in the fall or winter months. Summers in Italy are so hot and humid that many chocolate candies are pulled from the shelves of grocery stores, only to reappear when the temperature drops – so having an outdoor chocolate festival in an Italian summer is out of the question.

5 Italian chocolate festivals in 5 Italian cities

Mid-October: EuroChocolate in Perugia

Photo from eurochocolate.com

Photo from eurochocolate.com

The biggest chocolate festival in Italy is EuroChocolate. The event draws more than a million people to the Umbrian capital of Perugia every October, almost six times the city’s normal population. The festival began in 1993, though Perugia has been associated with chocolate since the Perugina candy company was founded there in 1907.

Each year, EuroChocolate focuses on a different theme. In 2016 it is “Sharing Chocolate Age,” with a hashtag ready for sharing on social media. There are always chocolate vendors from all over Europe offering samples and sweets for sale, as well as workshops about making or cooking with chocolate. A highlight of every festival is the chocolate sculpture carving, which spectators love to watch.

EuroChocolate is free, though visitors can purchase a Chococard to receive discounts and some gifts from various vendors throughout the show. In 2016, EuroChocolate runs from October 14-23. The Chococard this year is €6 and gets you (among other things) a EuroChocolate selfie stick with a bar of chocolate where your smartphone would go.

Artisan chocolatier names to look for: De Bondt

Chocolate and wine pairing: the creative pralines of De Bondt with Falesco’s Passirò Bianco Passito Lazio IGP

November: CioccolaTÒ in Turin

Most people around the world are familiar with Nutella without realizing it’s a signature chocolate flavor that comes from Turin. The chocolate-hazelnut spread’s origins date back to the early 19th century when cocoa was hard to come by. Adding hazelnuts stretched the chocolate supply and introduced a new flavor in the process. Nutella was subsequently invented by Pietro Ferrero during World War II when chocolate was once again in short supply.

Turin’s chocolate festival is a play on the Italian word for chocolate – cioccolato – and the Italian name of Turin – Torino. CioccolaTÒ started in 2004, and now takes place each November in Piazza San Carlo in the city center, and is free for all to attend. Chocolatiers from all over the country show off their sweets, offering free samples and plenty available for purchase, and there are chocolate contests and workshops. The tentative date for 2016 is November 18-27.

Artisan chocolatier names to look for: Guido Gobino, Peyrano, Slitti, Stratta

Chocolate and wine pairing: dark chocolate of Peyrano with Travaglini’s Il Sogno, Vino da uva stramature

November: Cioccoshow in Bologna

The Emilia-Romagna capital of Bologna is famous for its cuisine, though chocolate may not be the first culinary export that comes to mind. In 2015, though, the city celebrated the 11th edition of Cioccoshow, its annual chocolate festival that takes place in November.

Chocolate takes on creative forms at Cioccoshow. Photo by JuliaGarQue

Chocolate takes on creative forms at Cioccoshow. Photo by JuliaGarQue

The 2016 edition, called “Sotto il Segno del Buon Cioccolato” (Under the Sign of Good Chocolate), has the twelve signs of the zodiac represented by chocolate figures as its logo. Chocolate makers from all over Italy will be on hand to show off their creations, including offering samples to festival-goers. There are chocolate workshops and demonstrations, classes visitors can take, and even a Chocolate Library with hundreds of books related to chocolate.

Entry into Cioccoshow is free, and the 2016 festival runs from November 16-20.

Artisan chocolatier names to look for: Roccati, Majani

December: ChocoModica in Modica

The Sicilian city of Modica has its own unique method of making chocolate that is based on an Aztec recipe for preparing cacao seeds into something more edible. It’s known as Cioccolato di Modica, and even has an official seal as a traditional regional food product. Modica’s chocolate has a grainy texture that makes it easily identifiable, and the city celebrates it each December with a festival.

Modica’s chocolate festival used to be called Chocobarocco, but is now called ChocoModica. In addition to plenty of chocolate sampling, the festival also includes music, art, chocolate workshops, and guided tours of chocolate maker facilities. Visitors will be able to taste the difference between Modica’s chocolate and the chocolate of other Italian confectioners taking part in the festival.

ChocoModica in 2016 runs from December 8-11 in the center of the city. Officials say about 100,000 people attended the festival in 2015, tripling Modica’s population for the duration of the event.

Artisan chocolatier names to look for: Antica Dolceria Bonajuto, Donna Elvira

February: Fiera del Cioccolato Artigianale in Florence

Florence’s most famous contribution to the world of Italian sweets is gelato, which some say was first introduced by an inventive chef working under Catherine de’ Medici. The Tuscan capital has, however, been putting on its own chocolate festival since 2004.

Fiera del Cioccolato Artigianale in Florence. Photo by Alessandro Scarcella

Fiera del Cioccolato Artigianale in Florence. Photo by Alessandro Scarcella

The Fiera del Cioccolato Artigianale (Artisanal Chocolate Festival) takes place in February, which coincides nicely with the celebratory atmosphere of both Valentine’s Day and Carnival (though Carnival dates change every year, it’s often in February). The Piazza Santa Maria Novella serves as the fairgrounds, with Italian chocolatiers handing out tasty samples and happy to sell larger quantities of whatever treat you like best. There are also workshops, cooking classes, and artists carving sculptures out of chocolate blocks.

Visiting the festival itself is free, though there are fees for some of the individual workshops and classes. The Fiera del Cioccolato Artigianale runs from February 10-19 in 2017.

Artisan chocolatier names to look for: Amedei, Vestri, Trinci

Chocolate and wine pairing: the chocolate bars of Amedei with Altesino’s Vin Santo

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