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A Chocolate Pilgrimage


ITALY | Monday, 4 May 2015 | Views [223] | Scholarship Entry

Most people who veer away from churches, coliseums, and canals while touring Italy go to the city of Turin as a pilgrimage to see a holy relic. My own trip there was a pilgrimage of sorts, devoted to my love of chocolate, to taste something called a Bicerin.

I first saw this beverage on television during the 2006 Torino Olympics. I’m not much for sports, but I love the stories the networks do on local color when there is a lull in the action. The reporter was talking about a specialty found exclusively in the Piedmont area when camera panned in on a thick stream of hot chocolate being poured into a clear glass mug. Next came a layer of espresso and then a layer of cream. Some people are called to the summit of Everest or the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. I needed to get to Turin.

It took nearly a decade, but I finally found myself on the 68 bus headed toward Stassi station where a funicular would take us up the mountain to the Superga Basilica. I was visiting my son during his semester abroad and he agreed that we should head to Torino with the theory that if you seek chocolate, good things are bound to happen. The concierge at our hotel assured us that the best Bicerin was to be found in the café of the basilica and that the views weren’t bad either.

On the funicular we found ourselves among locals, their musical conversation punctuated with laughter as they pointed out the sights. We emerged into truly alpine air, clear and chill. A short walk up a hill brought us to the an overlook where the Po River swirled through the city like a ribbon around a gift. We stood taking pictures until we were chilled through and ready for a hot drink.

The café was rustic, probably a storage room at one time. The man behind the counter took our order without a smile. He went about his work like an artist, each layer of the Bicerin poured in with an assured hand and finished with an intricate spider web pattern of chocolate on top. He placed them before us. “Va bene?” We grinned and took pictures while he pretended not to notice.

I can’t say which part of consuming it was the best. The first taste where coffee mixed with cream and just a hint of mocha, the blended middle sips, or scooping thick hot chocolate out with a spoon at the finish. Workman were smiling at our enjoyment, hands around their morning cappuccino. I had come to a church at the top of an Italian mountain to complete a pilgrimage and everything about it was worth the trip.

Tags: 2015 Writing Scholarship

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