Goodbye to Mr Sugar Daddy

‘Mr Nutella’ – Michele Ferrero described by Forbes as Italy’s richest man, and owner of the chocolate and confectionery empire died recently at the ripe old age of 89. He was known as a quiet, reserved man who stayed well out of the limelight. Who would have thought mixing hazelnuts with chocolate into the Nutella spread  would have made him a billionaire!Nutella, Vegemite

Every Italian I have met has grown up on Nutella, unlike many Aussies, like me, who grew up on Vegemite. I always have a jar or tube of that in the cupboard and have stifled a giggle seeing my Italian friends dive in on a slice of bread with Vegemite thinking it must be the dark chocolate version of Nutella!? Boy are they shocked after the first mouthful when that strong tasty yeast extract hits the palate. After one of these tastings a friend commented “you must have had a deprived childhood”!

Ferrero chocolatesDelving into Mr Nutella’s company I discovered that besides the famous Nutella first produced in 1964, Ferrero also produces Ferrero Rocher chocolates, Kinder surprise eggs, (that the kids are addicted to here both for the chocolate and the wacky surprise hidden inside) Tic Tacs and more! No wonder the man is a billionaire!

The Company was started in 1946 in a humble pastry shop in Alba, Piedmont by his parents, Pietro and Piera.  That later turned into a small chocolate factory and now Ferrero boasts factories worldwide and yet it is still run by the family, Michele’s son, Giovanni.

Barolo, Piedmont

Alba is full of hazelnut trees, alongside vineyards producing some of Italy’s prized reds – Barolo and Barbaresco. I had never seen a hazelnut tree till I toured through the area last year with my brother and sister-in- law and we indulged in many great wines and local chocolate/hazelnut spreads.

Alba, PiedmontHazelnut trees Alba






Exploring the Company’s website further I saw their Mission statement is ” Work, Create, Give” and if you read their social programs there is an impressive list of educational, and recreational programs for children, employees and retirees. An encouraging statement on their commitment to respect the environment and a glocal approach – a company “which focuses on international development, without losing sight of its relationship with local communities.” Let’s hope it’s all true.

The website also talks of its focus on nutritional values although I am sure I am not alone in thinking that Nutella is definitely addictive…once you start on the jar on a cold winter’s night there is no telling when you’ll finish!

It has some curious facts too                                                                                              – a line of Ferrero Rocher chocolates produced in 6.2 days would be as long as the Great Wall of China!                                                                                                            – hazelnuts used in 2 years could fill a basket the size of the Colosseum!


Image courtesy of Jon Whiles at

Can you imagine that?                                                                                                                                  

            After all this talk of Nutella I think I’ll just go get that jar!



Love is in the Air!

Valentine day rose Valentines day is almost here and roses will disappear quickly from the florist shop to bring a smile and tender kiss from a loved one. While celebrated worldwide, few really know how the day began, so I will let you in on the secret that I learnt from Giuseppe – my local Umbrian guide.

Saint Valentine was born in Terni, Umbria in the 3rd Century. As the Roman army was about to come through the town he quickly married off the young men of the city knowing that the  Romans would have forcibly taken them as soldiers. His way of protecting them, as Romans only took single men into their armies. So we could say the boom in marriages is why Valentine’s day is considered so romantic. Arena Verona And let me talk more about“Amore” as I spent the weekend in Verona, home to the most famous love story in history – Romeo and Juliet. It is such a beautiful, stylish city, and cannot but invoke romantic thoughts. I can hear Juliet’s plea from her balcony “Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?”, a plea to have him change his family name since he belonged to her family’s enemy. Not as mistakenly is understand, a query as to where he is! But whatever one remembers of the famous story it is kept very much alive here in the centre of Verona, tempting thousands of visitors to stroke Juliet’s breast as they stand below the famous balcony or visit the museum. It keeps the volunteers of Juliet’s Club busy responding to the thousands of letters that arrive each year addressed to Juliet.

Juliet's Balcony Verona As I stroll the city I am surprised at the amount of ladies still flashing furs and can only hope they are fake, or from grandma’s époque! While I have been many times to the city I still find it alluring and happily re-tread old ground to see for the umpteenth time Juliet’s balcony, trying hard to block out the graffiti and hordes of scribbled love notes pasted to the entrance gallery.Juliet's statue



The tacky chewing gum used and Juliet’s left breast rubbed shiny do lower the tone inside the 13thC courtyard.

ChocolatesA chocolate aroma wafts from the Venchi shop nearby and in this cold I am seriously tempted to a hot chocolate, while admiring the rest of the delicacies on offer – chocolate crepes, toffee apples, and chocolate coated strawberries…Yum!


That leads me to Piazza Erbe where locals are out having an aperitif before lunch, like lizards seeking the sunshine, even looking bronzed but maybe that’s just my sunglasses or the reflection from the Spritz they are sipping.Piazza Erbe Verona





Romeo's home

I wander past the home of Romeo, often ignored, and not open to visitors anyway.



Then on to where the tomb of Juliet is housed and the atmosphere is decidedly different and more in keeping with such a romantic story. Curiously even China has got in on the act by donating a rather lovely statue of two lovers – Liang and Zhu, depicting their legendary love story, the Romeo and Juliet of the Orient.Juliet's tombChinese love story





Back to the centre of town I have to admire the famous Arena from the 1st C AD, home to the Summer Opera season and many other dance and concert performances. It’s glorious, and its pink and white limestone blocks so striking. In fact most of the main streets are paved in the same elegant coloured limestone, worn smooth from the thousands of tourists attracted to the city each year. Arena





There is still so much more to see and tell of Verona, but I will save that to another post.

Valentines Day


So who will be your Valentine this year? Or more importantly who will be mine?!

Happy Valentines Day!