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Winter Warmer: Italy's answer to hot chocolate

BY Citalia Partnership

12th Dec 2022 Drinks

3 min read

Winter Warmer: Italy's answer to hot chocolate
Discover the origin and rituals of cioccolata calda - Italian hot chocolate has a subtle culture all of its own. Home to some of the finest chocolate in the world with Nutella and Ferrero being created here, Italy is the perfect place for lovers of food!
Cioccolata calda, the Italian hot chocolate drink, is intended for the cool and crisp months. In fact, if you try to order cioccolata calda outside of the winter season, you may receive a confused look and a polite refusal.
Cioccolata calda is decadently thick and is more like a dessert than a drink. That’s because it’s made with real pieces of intensely dark chocolate, which gives it a very different composition to the powdery, sugary cocoa and hot chocolate found in Britain.
While you can opt to drink cioccolata calda, in Italy it is always served with a small espresso spoon so that you can eat it and slowly savour the flavour. To balance the rich chocolate flavour, cioccolata calda is often served with cantuccini, the crunchy, twice-baked Italian almond biscuit.

Cioccolata Origins

While drinking chocolate dates back 4,000 years to the Mesoamerican civilizations, bicerin, the little glass, may have been Italy’s catalyst for cioccolata calda.
Bicerin originates from the 17th century when the royal dynasty, the House of Savoy, licensed Monsù Gio Antonio Ari, a Turinese chocolatier, to sell a chocolate drink topped with whipped cream and espresso. Served in a small glass with a metal handle and base, this became a classic Italian drink, and bicerin remains popular across Piedmont today.
Piedmont is a region in the northwest of Italy which is famous for its food and wine. The Slow Food Movement was born in Piedmont and has become known all around the world. Piedmont is also a wine lovers paradise with Barolo and Nebbiolo wines taking pride of place. Capital of Piedmont, Turin holds a Chocolate Festival every November in Piazza San Carlo where over 120 chocolate makers from around the world gather to celebrate and present their chocolates – a real treat!
Piedmont region in the northwest of Italy

An Indulgent Experience

During your Italian holiday you might be surprised to see that cioccolata calda has a hefty price tag, with some cafés charging around £10 for one cup.
This may seem extravagant, however cioccolata calda is a winter ritual to be embraced. Italian cioccolata calda focuses on the provenance of its luxurious, silky-smooth chocolate, as well as little signature additions, such as Himalayan Sea salt, Indonesian cardamom, cinnamon, or ginger.

A Personal Affair

It’s up to the individual how this delicious Italian winter warmer tastes. Naturally bitter, if you prefer a sweeter note then it is perfectly acceptable to add a spoonful of sugar or two. You can request your cioccolata calda senza panna (without whipped cream), con panna (with whipped cream) or panna parte (the cream separately). Some of Italy’s historic cafés literally serve cioccolata calda on a silver platter, emblazoning an indulgent memory in your mind. Italy’s answer to hot chocolate can be found up and down the country and is particularly prominent at the Christmas markets so be sure to try it for yourself!
Italian hot chocolate drink cioccolata calda

Did you know?

For centuries, chocolate has been a savoury ingredient in Italy, as the cocoa bean is naturally bitter and so is treated like a spice. During the winter months, it is common to find piatto principale on the menu which features chocolate, such as pappardelle in a rabbit and chocolate ragu, Torta alla Milanese, made with minced beef, or wild boar with agrodolce, a sweet and savoury sauce.

Discover the real Italy with Citalia 

Citalia are the UK’s leading Italian specialist with over 90 years’ experience in tailoring Italy holidays. Italy Experts are on hand every step of the way to ensure you make memories to last a lifetime. It’s never too late to start planning your Italian escape!
Visit to discover the real Italy on your next adventure. Andiamo!  
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