Food, Wine and other Beverages

Why Italian Hot Chocolate is Amazing

Hot chocolate in Italy: A warm, Italian treat perfect for those cool winter days

In Italy, the time has come to relinquish the fluorescent, plastic gelato spoon. You may crave the cool sweet 365 days a year, but many gelaterie close in the winter. So in the name of eating seasonally, trade your plastic cup or cone for a mug of thick, Italian hot chocolate, and don’t worry – those beloved gelaterie open back up in the spring.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Italian hot chocolate is everything hot chocolate should be. If the absence of fluffy, white marshmallows makes you hesitate, opt instead for panna a parte, or whipped cream on the side. This is one of the key points about Italian hot chocolate: you can have it however you like. And by this, I don’t mean using skim milk instead of 2 percent. (Ha! As if.) It’s made with whole milk or heavy cream, depending on the bar,  or by adding a syrupy flavor addition to the taste of the chocolate. In Italy, hot chocolate is personalized where it matters. Add however much sugar you want to balance bitterness and sweetness.  To control the intensity of chocolate ask for senza panna, without whipped cream; con panna, with whipped cream; or panna a parte.

The hot chocolate in Italy is almost as thick as pudding. It is drinkable, but use the baby spoon served on the little plate. That way, you can avoid childish stains around your mouth, make the treat last longer and spoon in dollops of the sweet panna. And if you’re lucky, the café serves simple, dip-able biscotti on that little plate, too. Italy is also home to the famous Eurochocolate Festival held each October in Perugia.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

I know it sounds like an intense culinary experience. It is, but in a very manageable way, because the hot chocolate comes in one size and it’s not too much to handle.

Now we come to the differences between hot chocolate in the US and hot chocolate in Italy: While I don’t want to insult American hot chocolate, the truth is that I only ever make it at home; buying it at a café is too risky: Will even the small size be so big that I get a stomachache? Will the chocolate be intense enough to satisfy my craving, or even be real chocolate at all? Will there be more sugar than chocolate and milk combined? Will they use milk, or just a powder mix plus hot water? No, it’s too risky; I have to mix my own at home. But in Italy, all the hot chocolate is the real thing.

When it comes to Italian hot chocolate, I’m by no means a snob. I’ll even enjoy a cup at the train station. I do, however, have my favorite places. Café Converso wins as my favorite gelateria in Bra, Piedmont, and it also wins for my hot chocolate preference. Their hot chocolate is thick and rich and served with biscotti. Ask for panna a parte, of course.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

L’Agenzia is a hotel bar in Pollenzo, a town only about 15 minutes by bus from Bra and the seat of the University of Gastronomic Sciences, which I attend. The hot chocolate at L’Agenzia is not thick, but still delicious because of the cocoa they use: Domori. This is a high-quality hot cocoa for the rookie – I mean lighter – drinker.

And then there’s your average bar that serves a thick hot chocolate of the Ciobar brand. It is not as intense as Café Converso, and not of the Domori quality, but still spoon-lickingly satisfying.

Ready to learn about Spanish hot chocolate now?

An American expat living in Piedmont as journalist and translator, I love Italy’s food and wine, the city of Turin, and my proximity to the Alps. I like learning about local wines and craft beers, and finding the best pizza, panino, and gelato in the city. I’m fascinated with cultural anthropology and in particular how it relates to food culture. My favorite way to explore is on my own two feet, and I can’t get enough of hiking in the vineyards or Alps.

This article has 21 comments

  1. Nerea

    Great post, Diana.

    Italians have a great chocolate, I agree. I bought a mix to prepare intense cioccolata calda in tazza at Guido Gobino, a famous artisan in Torino. What a great and beautiful city to enjoy chocolate!

    But in Spain we also have a hot chocolate called chocolate a la taza, with a similar texture. You can have a good chocolate in selected places and I also buy good mix to prepare it at home.

  2. Monica | Gap Daemon

    This hot chocolate looks absolutely amazing. Just what we need on a cold and miserable afternoon.

  3. Jessica

    Reading this makes me want to go make a cup of hot chocolate for breakfast!

  4. Abby

    I love how the Europeans make their hot chocolate so thick — like pudding, as you say! It really is sinful!!

  5. judith works

    The best hot chocolate I have had in Italy was at the Caffee Gambirinus in the center of Naples, still going as a literary salon since 1860. And oh those pastries.

  6. Margo Millure

    I really must go eat a protein adequate lunch before reading this again 🙂 I love Italian hot chocolate so much I drank it in Rome this past July. Family thought I was nuts.

  7. Riccardo

    Bravo, Diana: your leisurely-paced narration of hot chocolate in Italy is the next best thing to receiving dark chocolate intravenously!

  8. Krista

    That looks absolutely heavenly!! I’ve never had this type of hot chocolate in Italy, but I’ve made it at home and oh, how I love it. 🙂

  9. Diana Zahuranec

    I live only a 45-minute train ride away from Torino. I’ll remember the name Guido Gobino when I head to the city for the chocolate tasting year-round ticket event. Thanks!

  10. Diana Zahuranec

    That’s not nuts at all. I would do the same.

  11. Diana Zahuranec

    Grazie, Riccardo

  12. Giuseppe Della Queva

    Reading this makes me want to drink soon a cup of hot chocolate in Cafè Converso! I did it a time and i liked it a lot 🙂

  13. Diana Zahuranec

    Yum! It really is the best.

  14. Liv

    That chocolate looks extremely naughty but also very satisfying! I love the variety that Europe offers, especially with food and drinks. Yum!

  15. Amber Paulen

    I wish I could pass up the cappuccino for the cioccolato caldo but I’m never able to when I get to the counter. After five years of living in Italy, I haven’t had one. What a shame! You’ve helped me to at least try harder now. Thanks!

  16. Kae Lani | A Travel Broad

    WOW! You just brought chocolate to a whole new level. It’s an enigma – do you drink it, or do you eat it?

  17. Lisa

    The most amazing hot chocolate I’ve had in Italy was in Venice. As you said it was made with real chocolate and heavy cream, oh my gosh I can still remember how good it was. When I return to Venice I will have it again. I would love to try the one you’re describing.

  18. Todd

    Great pictures and info! I’m researching some of Rome’s best street foods and I’m going to include Italian Hot Chocolate as a “must try” for travelers. Thanks and keep it up!

  19. Peter

    I came across this post while looking up what was in an Italian hot chocolate. I have been working my way around the cafe’s in Bra to find the best hot chocolate (while my partner studies at UNISG). Convorso was pretty good but found an even better one at Talamini Cafè. I will have to try the hotel cafe at Pollenzo to see how it compares.

    On the Gelato front I would have to say Gelato IGP is s my favourite. Such great quality and seasonal flavours and the owners are so friendly. They also do a nice melted fondant hot chocolate.

  20. Margo Millure

    Thanks for stopping by, Peter! What a great place to be able to try hot chocolate AND gelato 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *