The Perugina company was founded in Perugia, and in 1922 the Baci story began. The centre is a mix of top quality chocolate and crushed hazelnuts, on top of that is a whole hazelnut. This is coated in dark bittersweet chocolate and then the very special wrapper. Each Bacio has its own romantic love note included inside the starry sky foil wrapper.
I have been a fan of Baci chocolates for ages so the opportunity to do a tour and sample chocolates was too good to pass up. Since 1998 Nestlè have owned the company but they continue to make the Perugina range and also make some Nestlè products as well.
I was pleased to see the huge carpark full of cars as that meant that the factory floor was operating despite it being high summer. The carpark was mostly under cover with hundreds of solar panels on the tops of the shades.
We did an English language tour which was very good. First we saw a video which told us all about the growing of cacao beans and the method used to make chocolate. We saw history and production techniques, and the world market Perugina has for its chocolates and candies.
The museum was extensive with lots of detail on not only the production and range of products but also history, advertising, famous connections and achievements. There were photos of Mussolini visiting in 1923, a very young Frank Sinatra singing and promoting Baci (if you bought a box of Baci you got a discount voucher for Frank's latest record) and old pieces of equipment. The factory is now 90,000 sq. metres in size and very high tech.
At the Eurochocolate Festival 2003 in Perugia a 2.15 metres high, nearly 6 tonnes in weight 'bacione' or big kiss was created which entered the Guinness Book of Records for the largest chocolate candy ever made. After the official judging they broke it up and gave it all away - 1000 hours to make and 4 hours to eat. They have a reproduction on display in the museum and I just had to stand beside it!
Next stop was the tasting room. They had samples of all their products with more than ample for the whole group. Naturally I tested several different ones and declared all to be perfect.
The plant has a covered walkway which allowed us to walk above the machinery and see the Baci being made. We were very lucky to see most of the process from the dipping to wrapping to packaging. No photos were allowed due to industrial spying.
They also have a Chocolate School where chefs and other interested people can have lessons during the colder months of the year.
And of course, we exited via the gift shop! But this was one gift shop I wasn't going to be hurried through. It is too hot for chocolate really but I bought a couple of items for testing purposes and also a selection of their fruit candies.
I especially liked the floor on a section of the shop - under glass they had creatively placed the romantic quotes found inside the famous Baci.
I often use my favourite quote and this seems like a good time to use it again - 'It doesn't matter what the question is, the answer is chocolate!'