If you’ve never been to the Piedmont — Piemonte in Italian — let me tell you something that becomes blindingly obvious the minute you step off the train. The Piemontese are very passionate about chocolate. Every small town in the region has a beautiful, well-stocked chocolate shop. The capital of the region, Turin, has one on almost every corner. Train stations, airports, bus stops — all have chocolate shops. Almost every sweet I’ve tried there has been pretty good. Some, like the confections of Venchi, are downright excellent.
Venchi has been making chocolates in the northern Italian town of Cuneo, about an hour outside Turin, since 1872. Their specialty is gianduja, the typical Piemontese confection of hazelnuts and chocolate. Mixing milk and white chocolates with the famous local hazelnuts, Venchi creates a gianduja that borders on buttery, melting when it gets within inches of your tongue.
Usually sold in jars or small foil-wrapped pieces, this gianduja is in candy bar form. Store it in a desk drawer and you can nibble away for days. It also makes an unexpected, unusual Valentine’s gift, especially when paired with weekend plane tickets to Milan.