The tradition of uova di Pasqua al cioccolato
Chocolate bunnies are the traditional Easter treat in the United States, but Italians prefer gifting chocolate Easter eggs – giant, extravagantly decorated or wrapped, and often holding a treat inside. Here are some fun facts about these amazing sweet confections:
- Eggs are very symbolic, and not just at Easter. Ancient Romans would bury an egg painted red to encourage a good growing season. Eggs also signify rebirth after the cold winter months. Chocolate eggs became popular in Italy after World War II, when people wanted to celebrate Easter and chocolate was an inexpensive treat.
- Unlike small foil-wrapped chocolate eggs in the United States, Italian chocolate eggs are hollow, and can be very large. In the weeks before Easter, shop windows and coffee bars display elaborate eggs, typically wrapped in fancy foil or soft fabrics like silk and tulle. Italian supermarkets create large displays of hollow chocolate eggs targeted specifically to young children, wrapped in bright colors, with small toys inside.
- The finest chocolate eggs are made by Italy’s artisanal chocolatiers and pasticcerias, using fine white, milk or dark chocolates, and sometimes flavored with hazelnuts. The fanciest chocolate eggs are elaborately hand-decorated with colored chocolate or royal icing. Sizes range from very small, all the way up to gigantic; the largest can cost hundreds of euros.
- Most Italian Easter eggs feature a small trinket or toy inside, or pieces of the sweet confection torrone. The label will include the word sorprese (surprises). Local pasticcerias will sometimes let customers bring their own special gifts to hide inside chocolate eggs, including engagement rings, car keys, airline tickets, and more.
- In 2012, an Italian chocolatier presented Pope Benedict XVI with a chocolate Easter egg almost seven feet tall and weighing about 550 pounds. In 2004, a shopping center in Turin made a chocolate Easter egg more than 18 feet tall and weighing 5,500 pounds.