Just when we needed a little distraction from the rigors of school, language, and missing friends, two annual events set up camp in Perugia. The first, Eurochocolate, is right outside our window running up and down the main streets and piazzas in the historic center of town. The 10-day festival includes hundreds of chocolate vendors from around Italy and all of Europe, and it attracts thousands of visitors who arrive by the bus-load every day filling the streets and leaving the biggest mess of wrappers and chocolate everywhere.
The theme of this year’s Eurochocolate is “iChoc.” Besides an assortment of chocolate bars, many booths sell iPhone inspired designs on their candy. You can also buy an iPad case that looks like a slab of chocolate.
This event is less about sampling Europe’s finest chocolate than about merchandise and commercialism. It does, however, provide for some entertaining walks around town. And all chocolate, even that decorated like the Facebook icon, can momentarily ward off the challenges of a backpack full of Italian homework.
The second festival is taking place in a nearby parking lot that has been transformed for one month into a swirling, circling, plunging, jolting, neon-colored spectacle of fair rides. The Perugians refer to this carnival as the “Baraccone.” We’ve visited twice.
The first time we came was last week with some local friends. We had a blast. (The boys had a blast; I had fun watching them have fun.) They rode a roller coaster, a tunnel of horror, and lots of plunging, twirling rides. Since neither our friend Sergio nor I can stomach the spin factor, we watched. Matt, however, loves anything with speed and thrill, so he stood in line with the kids. Milena hated to see him ride alone, so she often joined him.
Tom found an NFL-themed ride that he couldn’t wait to try. He went on by himself. It went so fast and so high that I had to take a little walk to calm my nerves. When Tom finally got off, he said it was fun for the first part, but he wouldn’t do it again. And it seems like Italy doesn’t have the same concern for safety that America has, he added.
By Saturday, we had our fill of the crowds, the carnival and the chocolate. We hoped on a bus to Assisi for the night. After touring through the famous churches and visiting the tombs of St. Clare and St. Francis, we headed 4 kilometers into the hills above the city and saw the secluded caves where St. Francis and his friends lived. Then we walked through the woods for hours. It was silent and beautiful up there. Ray said he would count it as one of the best side trips we’ve taken since we arrived in Italy.