When it comes to chocolate, my hands down favorite chocolate confection has to be the Perugina Baci. Each delicious Baci consists of dark chocolate which envelopes a heart of gianduia (creamy blend of chocolate and hazelnut cream) dotted with more chopped hazelnuts and then topped with one whole hazelnut.
Invented in 1922, the Perugina factory here in Perugia cranks out more than one and a half million Baci each day and this factory is in fact the only one in the world that produces Baci. We have lived here in Umbria over four years now and have yet to tour the Perugina factory so when we were fortunate enough to have all of our family visit Umbria together this past month for two weeks, I put a visit to the Casa del Cioccolato on our “to do” list.
After a couple of discussions with the folks at Perugina, we learned that although the Scuola del Ciocolato is normally shut down over the summer, because we were a fairly large group of ten, they would schedule a class for us. There are different classes offered, but they recommended with children that we complete the one hour class, with the factory tour to follow. They scheduled our class and our tour with a half an hour in between for us to “clean up”, so we knew going in that this would be a hands on class.
The morning of our class arrived and with a good deal of anticipation and excitement we headed off to San Sisto in Perugia for our morning of chocolate. Our group of 11 ranged in age from 9 months to 57 years, included 6 adults and 5 children. Apart from baby Leo, we had a 4, 5, 9 and 12 year old along for the fun.
After arriving at the Casa del Cioccolato, we were introduced to the Master Chocolatier Alberto and taken into the classroom which was all set up for us with pots of chocolate warming at each of the prep stations. Although we were offered an English speaking teacher at the time of booking, Alberto spoke little English so my husband Louie volunteered to translate which worked out perfectly.
We each chose our own prep station and were given an apron before we began to help keep us clean. The aroma of the melted chocolate simmering on the stove at each station was truly intoxicating, and I think we all dipped our fingers into the warm chocolate a few times for a taste throughout the class.
Chef Alberto was a wonderful teacher and extremely patient with our very mixed group of students. He gave us a short history of chocolate, then moved on to teach us how to temper chocolate which involved pouring the melted chocolate directly onto the counter in front of us and then using a scraper and spatula to work the chocolate.
This obviously was a very messy endeavor although I am sure if you asked, it was probably the favorite part of the class for all of the kids. We moved on from there to making chocolate truffles, then to making chocolate cereal candies and we packaged up both in official Perugina bags to bring home with us.
The class ended up lasting about an hour and a half and culminated in a diploma ceremony which explained why Perugina required exact names and ages in advance at the time of booking. Along with their diplomas, each of the kids were also given a chef’s hat with the Perugina Scuola del Cioccolato emblem on them and were thrilled with both. Covered in chocolate and leaving very messy prep stations behind, everyone thoroughly enjoyed their chocolate class and I would highly recommend the Scuola del Cioccolato to anyone who likes chocolate.
It was by far one of the best activities we have participated in together as a family, and although little Leo at 9 months was too young to get his hands dirty, the rest of the kids took the class very seriously and managed very well with a little help to complete each step. In fact, I enjoyed the experience so much, I have been looking over the other classes they offer and think I’ll go back this fall and complete a more advanced class in chocolate.
After a visit to the sinks to clean up, we headed back to the lobby to wait for our factory tour. There are tours scheduled throughout the day, some even in English, but it is best to call ahead and reserve to get a place on the tour you desire. The tour begins with a short history of the Perugina factory which I found quite interesting, then a short tour through the museum.
We were then shown a video about Perugina advertising through the years which I found unnecessary, and the kids all found it quite boring. The best part of the tour came next, where we were able to taste all the different chocolate and confections Perugina produces, and after getting our chocolate fix, we moved through the factory on a walkway set above the factory floor that allowed us to look down at the immense production in progress.
Since it was off season, Baci seemed to be the only product in production at the time, but it was mind boggling to see the mechanization involved in producing, wrapping, and packaging each and every individual chocolate.
It was truly a wonderful day for us all at Casa del Cioccolato, and my only regret is that it took us so long to get there. I certainly would recommend both the class and the tour to anyone as it really was a unique and enjoyable experience.
Please Note: Like many things in Italy, it did take perseverance to book our chocolate class as the original person we spoke to about class information named Ricardo who seemed to be very on top of things, went on vacation when we called back to finally book. No one else seemed to think we should be able to schedule a class as it was July, and would constantly tell us they would check and then call us back.
Of course, they never called back, and we had to call back ourselves repeatedly. It wasn’t until we were able to finally speak to Ricardo once again that we managed to get the class and tour booked. Part of the problem certainly was that we were attempting to book “off season”, but it all worked out in the end. So, if you are interested in scheduling a class, I highly recommend that you ask for Ricardo when you book, and have patience as it really is worth the effort!
Baci chocolates came on the Italian market in 1922, and initially were named Cazzotto, which literally means ‘punch-up’ which came from their irregular, squat shape. It was Giovanni Buitoni who re-christened the chocolate Bacio. The famous entrepreneur felt it much better to make customers ask for a kiss instead of a punch at the store. Around each Baci is wrapped a love note, making it the “chocolate for lovers”. Every day of operation, more than one and a half million Baci chocolates are made here at Perugina which is only a fraction of the 120 tons of chocolate that flows through the pipes and vats each day.
Open year-round, the Perugina museum tour lasts one hour and includes a visit to the Perugina factory where guests can view production. Also included is a taste of the company’s most popular chocolates. Call ahead to arrange a guided tour in English. CNN named the Casa del Cioccolato as one of the top five destinations for chocolate lovers in the world.
Open year round, Monday to Friday, from 9 AM to 1 PM and from 2 PM to 5.30 PM; Call to inquire about Saturday visits.
One hour museum tour includes a taste of our most popular chocolates.
Visitors are invited into the factory to observe production.
April – June visitors can take an abbreviated factory tour and view the facility from a windowed walkway. A video supplements this tour.
General Admission: 5 Euro
Reduced Admission: 3 Euro (senior citizens, young adults age 14-17, and groups of 10 or more)
Free Admission for children under age 13.
Location: a short taxi ride from downtown Perugia: NESTLE’ ITALIANA S.p.A., Viale San Sisto, 06132 PERUGIA ITALY
Reservations may be made 15 days in advance.
Call or write to inquire about classes in English and fees. Reservations required.
To reserve call: (800) 800 907
Or write to: [email protected]
Perugina Website (In Italian)
Baci by Perugina Website (In English)
Casa del Cioccolato (In English)
Scuola del Cioccolato:
Suola del Cioccolato Calendar
Phone – 800-800 907
We were told that they will schedule individual classes for groups of 10 to 14 if there are teachers available and if done in advance notice.
Our Casal del Cioccolato Experience!
I think someone has had too much chocolate fun!
See my recipe for Dark Chocolate Truffles inspired from our chocolate class.