History of the Chocolate Production and Process in Italy
Until the 16th century, cacao was unknown to Europeans. Christopher Columbus encountered the cacao bean on his fourth mission to the Americas on 1502, when he and his crew seized a large native canoe that contained cacao beans among other goods. However, the “discovery” of cacao beans by Columbus had no direct impact on Spanish court, until Spanish friars introduced chocolate. Anyhow, it is certain that Francesco Carletti, a Florentine and famous traveler, visited the cocoa plantations near Guatemala around 1591, and he immediately understood that this cocoa powder had enormous trade possibilities for Italy thanks to the new port of Livorno.
During 1585, in the “County of Modica”, (ruled by Spain) the first cold-worked chocolate was produced, using the ancient Aztec technique. It is reported that, at the beginning of 1600s, Infanta Catherine Michelle of Spain, the wife of Charles Emmanuel I, Duke of Savoy, brought chocolate to the Italian court.
The use of chocolate quickly expanded thanks to the Jesuits trade activities. In mid-600, chocolate is present in Pope’s court in Rome, who in the first place needed to investigate, as occurred with other doctrinal questions, if the consumption of chocolate may interrupt a required fast. The issue was then solved in 1662 by Cardinal Brancaccio, who determined that a cup of chocolate after mass should be considered healthy as used by ladies according to the Spanish fashion.
The very first chocolate house, serving hot chocolate, opened in Turin, on 1678, upon a Royal House of Savoy permission.
In the mid seventeenth century, the physician Francesco Redi prepared a chocolate recipe with jasmine flowers, which remained secret, despite been very much appreciated by the Medici’s.
At the beginning of the 1800s in Turin, Bozelli began experimenting with a machine that was able to solidify chocolate by mixing cocoa, vanilla, water and sugar. The city of the Savoy monarchy, became the hub in which techniques for preparing chocolate were refined and then exported to the rest of Europe.
It was after the mid-nineteenth century that the first Italian factories of chocolate were implanted, the still famous Caffarel, Majani, Pernigotti, Venchi and Talmone. The growing spread of chocolate in the last century was due by the industrial production at large scale thanks to Perugina, Novi, Peyrano, Streglio, Unique and Ferrero.
Starting from Florence moving to Venice at the beginning, and then spreading in Turin, chocolate began to be produced and exported across Europe.