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  • One Sweet Italian Kiss
    Our Paesani

    by Francesca Di Meglio

    Few things in life are as sweet as a chocolate kiss. And Hershey's got nothing on Perugina's Baci, which is now owned by internationally renowned Nestlé European Chocolate. The divine dark chocolate cover stuffed with whipped chocolate and hazelnut were the invention of a love-struck confectioner, who used the sweet stuff to woo the object of her affection.

    In 1922, Luisa Spagnoli created the delightful Baci chocolates in the Perugina chocolate factory in Perugia, and she wrapped love notes around them. She was having a secret affair with Giovanni Biutoni, the heir to the Perugina throne and theirs was a forbidden love between manager and employee. To keep the relationship under wraps, they expressed their sentiments through these little letters tucked into the Baci wrappers.

    Today, Baci is a Valentine's Day must have for lovers the world over and especially in Italy. Major market reports indicate that sales of gourmet chocolate is on the rise in the United States, and that includes Baci and other Perugina products, which have become available in Italian specialty shops and luxury stores alike.

    Luisa's love notes had staying power, so the company decided to hug each chocolate with a transparent paper featuring famous quotes about love. I have a collection of the tiny messages from the last box of Baci that my boyfriend Antonio gave to me on our anniversary in November. One of my favorites is also the most humorous. “Being a woman is a terribly difficult task since it consists principally in dealing with men.” Since love knows no language, the notes are translated into Italian, English, French, Spanish and Portuguese.

    The more romantic phrases can speak for you when you don't have the words. Perhaps, that is why Italian men are usually the ones to give the chocolates to women on Valentine's Day. Another message I received in my box of Baci was “Come, lay thy head upon my breast, and I will kiss thee into rest.” For someone in love, the words are a dream. After all, who can resist chocolate and poetry?

    Nowadays, when lovers want the chocolate to speak for them, they have a wide variety of choices. Although the individual Bacio chocolate has remained pretty much the same, the packaging has gone through many incarnations through the years. In the 1930s, Perugina introduced the large box of Baci. Over time, people could purchase the chocolates in bags, tubes, designer gift boxes, or even as chocolate bars.

    Of course, you can certainly get creative with the delivery. For instance, when my Italian boyfriend comes to stay with me in the States, I like to leave a Bacio on his pillow when I make his bed. That way he wakes up to a chocolate kiss from me and some inspiring words.

    If you are an aspiring chef, you could head to the Perugina Web site, where you'll find recipes for everything from Baci Pancakes to Baci Molten Lava Cake. Sounds sinful doesn't it?

    For those who are less adventurous in the kitchen and watching their weight, there are free e-cards that feature the chocolate company's famous love messages. You'll find simple ones on the Nestlé site and more elaborate ones that include things like a popped champagne bottle that lets out Baci instead of bubbles on Baci's Italian site.

    Every time someone reads one of those love notes or takes a bite into Baci, they are reawakening the romance of Luisa and Giovanni. Their love will never die as long as we keep savoring their delicious kisses.

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