While I don’t really care about Valentine’s day, every 14th of February, Cart would get me a box of Baci Perugina chocolates. This is probably one of the most recognized confectionary brand due to it’s deep blue and stars packaging.
Here is the one Cart got for me in 2010
Baci means kisses in Italian and in each Bacio, is milk chocolate, a hazelnut inside and a message with 4 languages inside. It’s hard to miss this when you’re in Italy as it’s sold in practically every supermarkets, tabbacaio and bars here.
I was at the Museo Centrale Del Risogimento recently to see the Perugina, the makers of Baci, exhibition. Situated within walking distance from the Colosseum, I’ve been here for the Botero as well as the Modigliani exhibition many years back.
As it was a free exhibition, the display areas wasn’t big – basically just two rooms. I found it enlightening, nevertheless. The first room was dedicated to the history and the start of the company and the second represents the company in contemporary times.
Perugina was founded in 1907 by Giovanni Buitoni and Luisa Spagnoli, who were both known confectioners, in the town of Perugia, located in Central Italy.
Together, they created different types of chocolates, such as the Banana and Roxana. I enjoyed watching a video filmed in 1933 on how the chocolates were made. The final product looks so exquisite and were beautiful enough to be given as gifts as it was.
One day, Luisa noticed that unused chocolate and chopped hazelnuts were thrown away at the end of the day. She then collected them and created a candy using a mixture of the remnants, topped it with a whole hazelnut and covered it with dark chocolate. She thought the treats looked like little fists and called them “Cazzotto”.
Giovanni didn’t think that the name would do well. Imagine going to the chocolate shop and asking the shopkeeper, “Give me a punch!”. He thought that it would be more genteel to ask for a kiss instead. Thus the Baci was born in 1922, and it was so popular that it expanded to New York and then all over the world.
As I looked at the different artefacts, I felt a sense of respect for the company as it was founded on unity. From the pictures and videos, I could see that the workers were proud to be working there, to be part of a big family. Even when the company had to close the company during World War 2, the retrenchment letters looked genuinely heartfelt.
My deep admiration goes to Luisa, who was forward thinking enough to create a childcare centre in the factory to allow women to work while their children were being taken cared of. I think that this was probably one of the crux of women’s empowerment and independence considering that Italy tends to be a patriarchal country, especially during that time.
Fast forward to now, Baci Perugina is a well loved and recognized brand comparable to the likes of Fiat 500 and Vespa.
The exhibition ends at 23rd March and could be an interesting visit if you are a chocolate, or historian lover and are in Rome till then.