A chocolate festival is a dream for the connoisseur of the rich, dark substance. In the fall, the best place to head is Perugia, for the annual Eurochocolate festival. In the winter, though, Florence has its own winter spectacular, with chocolate creations tempting from every corner. Held in the piazza in front of Santa Maria Novella, the Fiera del Cioccolato Artigianale this year will be held from February 7 to February 16. This is the tenth annual festival and this year its goal is to become an event where visitors can get involved, instead of just being spectators. A series of events will focus on the different aspects and unique attributes of chocolate. Special events are designed to give students a taste of what chocolate making is really like. Last year the festival organized a large group of people to form a heart in the middle of the square for Valentine’s Day, allowing everyone interested to get involved in the festival’s spirit.

This year a new corner will be dedicated specifically to local chocolate created here in Tuscany. Ten selected Tuscan chocolatiers will display their creations in this area. Traditional chocolate making demonstrations will also capture the attention of visitors. There will be a special area for demonstrations and chocolate makers will also speak with and answer questions from visitors. Italian food bloggers have also been specifically invited to the event to meet with the public. Visitors will be able to dive into kitchens to explore the uses of cocoa and chocolate while the bloggers share their photos and experiences live on the web. Another special section will be dedicated to clothing and luxury items, where young designers have married food with fashion to create unique items for sale.

Other exciting events in the past have included blind tastings where the participant tries different chocolates with similar exteriors but different fillings; pairings of chocolate and grappa; pastry demonstrations and a demonstration of the use of liquid nitrogen in shaping chocolate. There is truly something for everyone. In the past, free samples have been offered at many of the different booths and the festival has been held in several major Florentine piazzas. Chocolate offerings have included everything from flavored liquers to chocolate covered espresso beans and nuts to truffles and chocolate kebabs. And of course since it is the winter many booths will be offering the thick traditional Italian hot chocolate.

The event is perfectly timed to overlap with Carnevale and Valentine’s Day and will offer a variety of chocolate products for purchase, so be sure to stop by for some tasty treats!