Chocolate lovers turn out for festival

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

PERUGIA, Italy -- Chocolate statues, cocoa-flavored pasta, even solid chocolate "Pinocchio" noses are some of the sweets on display at an annual, weeklong festival dedicated to the food of the gods.

An estimated 30,000 people converged on the Umbrian city of Perugia, about 100 miles north of Rome, for the first weekend of the Eurochocolate festival. This year's theme is chocolate and cinema.

To celebrate, Tuscan chocolatier Simone di Castro constructed life-sized characters from the newly released Roberto Benigni film "Pinocchio" -- all made of solid chocolate.

Visitors could marvel at the sculptures in a "Pinocchio" village, where di Castro sold "Pinocchio" cups and T-shirts, as well as "Pinocchio" noses: cone-shaped chunks of chocolate sold in weights ranging from 2 ounces to more than 3 pounds.

"We can't make enough noses," assistant Pamela Fontana marveled. "People just keep buying them!"

At a special event Sunday, five sculptors on platforms sculpted huge hunks of chocolate into "Star Trek" characters and scenes from "La Dolce Vita" throwing scraps to crowds who gathered to watch.

"For the baby!" some parents yelled, as they held up their young children over their shoulders trying to get a piece of the prized shaving.

The Eurochocolate festival has been held every year since 1996 in Perugia, home of Perugina, maker of Italy's famous "Baci" hazelnut and chocolate candy.

Sweet tooths

Perugina, Lindt and Valrhona were among the vendors selling their sweets during the festival, which ends Sunday.

While some visitors found prices for the top-name brands too high and the crowds too large, others relished in the extremes of chocoholism.

In an all-chocolate beauty salon, chocolate soap, marzipan body lotion and cappuccino bubble bath were on sale. Saleswomen gave free chocolate baths, chocolate tattoos and even styled hair with chocolate paint and chocolate-covered berries.

"Time is precious," a well-dressed man said after he had his hair styled with chocolate. "You need to spend it on beautiful things."

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