As you push the old, glazed door open the rich, sweet scent of chocolate envelops you, enticing you in, making your mouth water and your taste buds tingle. And as you anticipate the first bite, your mind is working overtime trying to work out which of the wonderful chocolates to try (and just how much of this fine decadence will fit into your hand luggage?!) If you have a sweet tooth this is your version of chocolate bliss, sweet nirvana, pure heaven on earth. This is Vizio Virtù, the finest chocolatier in Venice.
Mariangela Penzo founded Vizio Virtù 10 years ago to pursue her personal passion for chocolate. Everyone warned against it saying she was mad as she wasn’t a trained chocolatier.
But Mariangela studied hard and taught herself, drawing on Venice’s long history of spice, sugar and cocoa trade and her favourite film, Chocolat, to develop her delicious handmade delicacies.
Italy’s links with chocolate actually go back centuries. Italian explorer Cristoforo Columbo, also known as Columbus, first came across the cacao bean in South America in 1502, thinking it was a type of almond. His son Ferdinand noticed that the Aztecs placed great value on the beans using them as money but when explorers presented them to the Spanish court the reaction was less enthusiastic. Gradually, however, popularity of the Aztec drink cacaua atl, meaning drink of cacao, believed to be an energy-giving elixir and health tonic, began to spread. First in Spain and then throughout the cultured courts of Rome, Turin and Venice.
By the 18th century Venice’s famous Caffe Florian in St Mark’s Square was serving a thick, dark, hot chocolate drink to its illustrious clients who included womanizer Giacomo Casanova, Lord Byron and later Charles Dickens. Venetian playwright Carlo Goldoni was so enchanted that he frequently included the spicy hot chocolate in his plays as a breakfast drink or tonic believing, like Casanova, it to be an aphrodisiac.
Other famous lovers of chocolate down the centuries included Marie Antoinette who travelled with her own personal chocolatier (clearly the only way to travel!!), Napoleon Bonaparte who liked hot chocolate before bed and Mozart who extolled its powers in his opera Così Fan Tutte.
But I digress! Back to Vizio Virtù!
Mariangela’s passion for chocolate is clear as she explains the different types of cacao grown around the world and the various ways that cocoa can be used – either as a butter, powder, granules or as whole beans – to give a different blend, texture or flavour. And once you taste her creations you understand just how skilled this chocolate magician is!
Start with an aceto-balsamic dark chocolate ganache that melts in the mouth producing a deep, rich, grape flavour. Or why not a stripy violet truffle packed with a fruity berry punch. The 66% Caribbean and 80% Peruvian Gran Cru pralines offer deliciously intense hits of dark chocolate. Or you can even do a bit of time-travelling, tasting Vizio Virtù’s Goldoni hot chocolate that uses water instead of milk as per the playwright’s original recipe from the 1750s. Mmmmmmm, it truly is the nectar of the gods!
Vizio Virtù’s luxurious velvet-smooth chocolates leave your taste buds singing and soul souring! And, although chocolate is no longer thought to be a cure for all sorts of ailments from infertility to a weak stomach or even tuberculosis, I (and probably Mariangela) would argue that it definitely holds restorative properties to stimulate the mind and sooth a broken heart!
So next time you’re in Venice, make sure you take a trip to Vizio Virtù. You too can have the divine dark gold delights once reserved for Aztec royalty King Montezuma. You too can taste the hot chocolate drunk by the European elite. And Vizio Virtù is not only there for all your celebrations but also for your daily treats too. Mariangela and her team of chocolate alchemists are waiting just round the corner from the Rialto Bridge to help you pick out your favourites. Buon appetito!!
For more information check out the official Vizio Virtù website here
Opening hours Vizio Virtù is open from 10:00 to 19:30, Tuesday to Sunday. The shop is closed on Monday.
Address The shop is on the corner of Calle Fava & Calle Forneri, in the Castello district (house number 5988), 30122, Venice, Italy
Every day from 10 am to 7.30 pm you can taste delicacies made in store and travel through the history of chocolate. If you can’t say no to all this sweetness, write to firstname.lastname@example.org to book a tasting.
If you also want a hands-on experience Vizio Virtù offer workshops in their kitchen. Find out how to temper chocolate, make truffles and, of course, how to make the best loved winter drink – hot chocolate. Has your mouth started watering? To book your lesson, and ask for information, write to email@example.com. Lessons are held every day from 7.30 pm to 9.30 pm by reservation only.
Good news! Vizio Virtù also has an online shop so you can satisfy those cravings without leaving home here
Note : My visit to Vizio Virtù was hosted by A Taste of Venice and Vivo Venetia a sustainable tourism organisation promoting the real Venice and offering an easy way to book interesting tours of the city’s hidden gems. All opinions are my own.