Even though Perugia is not the most impressive of the old towns in the region of Umbria it has something that is probably worth a trip on its own.
WARNING! All of you chocolate junkies out there, that might be on a diet at the moment, should be warned not to continue reading. Further reading might put your past achievements at a serious risk! You have been warned.
A visit to Perugina Chocolate factory (they make the famous Bacci chocolates) was on our travel list for quite some time. Who am I kidding here... this obviously was an item on M's list - I was just tagging along this time.
Let's start at the beginning... For quite some time M. was looking at various travel agencies that include a visit to this chocolate factory in their itineraries. Apart of this being a rather expensive way of doing it, those agencies usually also include things we don't fancy so much. If you have been following this blog you have probably noticed we are not the sheep type of tourists who enjoy the comfort of a large herd and love tagging along their trusty tour guide. We prefer tailoring our trips to our own needs and love the freedom of changing our itinerary on the go.
This was enough to decide we want to do this trip on our own.
In the research and preparation stage of this trip M. tried to reserve a spot in one of the available classes. Finding the contact on their homepage was not the most straightforward thing to do but that was nothing compared to communicating the whole thing with them in Italian. Luckily we do speak a little bit of Italian.
If you are also looking for a direct contact with them you can find the application form here. If Italian is not your thing, try translating it in Google Translate.
When M. tried to reserve her space behind a cooking stove, they informed her everything was already full. Since our plans were already set and some reservations confirmed by that time, we decided to go to Perugia anyway and try to fix things on the way.
We stayed at a nice and affordable hostel (Perugia Farmhouse) on the outskirts of Perugia. As the name suggests - it really still is a farmhouse. Soon after arrival we talked to the owner and he agreed to check out the situation at the chocolate factory in the morning. We weren't expecting much to come out of this, but we thought it couldn't hurt to try. We were thinking of going at least on a tour of the factory which also wasn't looking too good - it was low season at that time and not much was happening along the chocolate production lines. Things really weren't looking too good...
A phone call in the morning changed the whole thing - they told the guy from the hostel there is just one free space left in the first class that morning. As luck would have it - this was the one class M. preferred of the whole bunch. It was starting in a half an hour so we had to hurry. Luckily the Perugina factory is located relatively close to the hostel.
When we entered the factory we were led into a "classroom" designed especially for such chocolate making classes. Since M. has taken the last available spot we first confirmed our reservation directly with Maestro Alberto. He also agreed for me to go along as a photographer for free. How cool is that?
The class itself included everything from a bit of theory, chopping large chunks of chocolate, melting it, pouring it into plastic molds and filling them. Two kinds of filled chocolates were followed by chocolate truffles.
There was also a load of really useful practical advice given during the course. For instance: did you know temperature is essential when tempering chocolate? Only tempered chocolate will produce a finished product with a professional sheen, snap and taste - and your creations will not bloom when kept at the proper temperatures. When melting it, dark chocolate should reach 45°C (i.e. 113 F). Cooling it down to 31°C (i.e. 88 F) ensures forming of proper type crystals inside chocolate.
Before making a reservation you should take into account classes are only held in Italian (at least according to what I was told).
We would have managed to get a great deal out of this even in Italian, but got lucky again. Just next to us there was this US couple with their own interpreter. He agreed to help us out on a few technical terms and details. All in all - the whole thing worked out just great!
The class took over 3 and a half hours and we could take with us everything that was made. We could also keep all chocolate leftovers which were perfect for a chocolate fondue back home.
I think for 60 euro it was definitely a good value class. And that is only an opinion of an innocent bystander/photographer - M. was more then thrilled with the outcome.
She is still raving about it every time the topic pops up.