In the weeks leading up to Easter, the windows of Italy’s bakeries, supermarkets and chocolate shops are stocked with some of the most extravagant chocolate eggs you’ve ever seen. They could be intricately decorated with patterns and flowers, wrapped in a giant bow or adorned with messages. Some stand over 5.5 metres (18 feet) tall.
“If only nine out of 10 people say they love chocolate, the 10th person is a liar,” says Vincenzo Santoro, veteran pastry chef and manager at Martesana in Milan. In an exclusive video, Santoro talks Culture Trip through the process of an egg being made, from filling huge plastic moulds with melted chocolate to embellishing the egg’s surface with elaborate floral designs.
The practice of giving and receiving chocolate eggs took off in Europe at the beginning of the 19th century. The tradition of decorated eggs in Milan specifically is something that goes back 100 years, according to Santoro, with recipes being passed down from chef to chef.
Over time, chocolatiers started putting gifts inside the hollow eggs. Today, cheaper eggs bought at a supermarket will often contain small, inexpensive trinkets, such as those you’d find in a Christmas cracker, while more high-end artisanal chocolatiers can fill an egg with anything from engagement rings to car keys. Children receive toys in their chocolate eggs and, in a tradition akin to opening presents on Christmas day, it’s customary to wait until Easter Sunday to crack them open.
Eggs have long been a symbol of fertility and rebirth in Christianity, one closely associated with this religious festival. It’s no surprise that in a country with over 50 million Christians, plus a rich artistic and culinary history, the tradition of decorative chocolate eggs remains strong. During springtime, chocolate eggs are everywhere in Italy, even embedded in Italian Easter Bread, another sugary delicacy created to represent certain elements of the Easter story: the bread is shaped like Jesus’s crown of thorns.
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