chocolate in Pisa with Paul de Bondt

Visiting Pisa as described in my last post wasn’t what it was all about for me. Yes, I totally enjoyed the local culture and cuisine, and learned much visiting the historic relics. But I was there for the chocolate and to experience chocolate in Pisa with Paul de Bondt.

We were lucky with the timing of our visit in that we were in Pisa for dolce Mente, a festival of sweets (that unfortunately is no longer operating to my knowledge.) The man I was looking for was there in 2010 when I visited. I had come a long way to meet him, but somehow knew it would be worth the effort. I was so right.

We entered the festival in time to see Dutch-born chocolatemaker, Paul de Bondt, stirring up a pot of what looked like dry ice, causing considerable smoke and excitement in the room. Turns out he was making a very special and delicious gelato.

Paul de Bondt making his very special chocolate gelato

Paul de Bondt and his Italian wife, Cecilia Iacobelli are the dynamic duo behind de Bondt Cioccolato Originale (de Bondt Chocolate.) Spending two hours with this chocolate master was all I needed to help me tighten the focus for my chocolate book. It was my epiphany as de Bondt enabled me to get inside the mind of a chocolate master.


Paul de Bondt and his lovely wife Cecilia Iacobelli.

“It’s the small details that make the big differences, so we really put a lot of attention to the small nuances of flavours,” said de Bondt. I totally understood what he was telling me, and tasting his chocolate brought it all together for me. It made me realize we are cut from the same cloth. We are chocolate purists, and although we may appreciate the excitement that can come from adding fruits, nuts and other enhancements to chocolate, it is the quality of the cocoa beans that is of utmost importance to the final chocolate product.

I could tell you much more about Paul de Bondt and the chocolate excellence I found in Pisa. And I do–in the first volume of my book, Chocolatour: A Quest for the World’s Best Chocolate.

And I was happy to include de Bondt Cioccolato on the list I wrote for National Geographic Traveler featuring the 10 Best Chocolate Shops in the world. It is a most deserving representative of the best European chocolate you will find–anywhere.

But before we go, I have to take a step back. In my last post I neglected to thank our wonderful guide in Pisa, Vincenzo Riolo. He’s the same guide who showed American travel writer, Rick Steeves, that Pisa is so much more than the Tower. I must say that in each of the European cities we have visited, it has been the knowledge and insights of our local guides that has made the visit much more than a superficial fly by. Vincenzo is truly a master of his profession. You can reach him via the Pisa Guides website.

If I get back to Italy, I hope to take in the Chocolate Festival that’s held in San Miniato e Tirrenia. One thing I learned on our Chocolatour of Italy is that the Italians really love their chocolate, making Italy a superb destination for anyone interested in chocolate-inspired travel.

Doreen Pendgracs

Known throughout the Web as the "Wizard of Words", I've been a freelance writer since 1993. I researched and wrote Volume I of Chocolatour that won a Readers' favourite Award in 2014. Always enjoy experiencing new destinations and flavours.

13 Responses

  1. manny says:

    I want chocolate that will make me squeal! do I need to go to Rome?

    • Heck no, Manny! There’s great chocolate all over the world! That’s the kind of info I’ll be sharing with you in “Chocolatour.” So stay tuned. I’ll be introducing you to many more chocolate destinations & amazing chocolatemakers. Thanks for subscribing to the blog.

  2. What a quirkilicious approach to two delicious topics – travel & chocolate. Look forward to reading more very soon 🙂

  3. Have you ever tried Chocolate from Perugia?

  4. Doreen, I don’t really associated Italy with chocolate… but you have changed that for me! Can’t wait to return to Italy and check out some of your favourite chocolatey places. Just one more reason to love Italy!

    • Right on, Barb! I hadn’t had Italy on the top of my choco list, either. But Kathe, my original partner in the chocolate-tasting journey, had so wanted to go to Tuscany. So I fit that into the travel planning, and lo-and-behold … I was amazed at the quality chocolate makers and the strong pride that Italy takes in its place on the world chocolate stage. You know what they always say … seek and ye shall find.

      Thanks for joining us on this chocolate journey. I hope you’ll join us here again soon.

  5. Right on, Virginia! Thanks so much for keeping me standing during that long and wonder-filled day! What a glorious day it was, and meeting Paul de Bondt was the icing on the chocolate cupcake. I can’t wait for the movie!

  6. I remember that day so well. We were shattered from our morning at the beach, wine and lunch on the boardwalk, the stroll up the Via Roma, buses to and fro, the climb up the tower, our excellent tour with Vincenzo and then – as night was falling- the dolce Mente festival. De Bondt was shattered from his long day too, but your mutual passion for the subject matter kept everyone animated and engaged. It was indeed a turning point on the Chocolatour.

  7. Thanks, Dorian. It’s wonderful to have you joining us on the blog. I know you have travelled extensively, and look forward to your sharing more insights with us on future posts.

  8. Janie Law says:

    MMMMMMMMMMMMMM my favourite chocolate and wine. Didn’t know that my birthday month; March; had such great festivals in Pisa. Must add that to my bucket list.

    • Thanks for joining us on the blog, Janie. Yes, chocolate and wine go so well together, don’t they? And pair those 2 with travel, and well … you’ve got the best of all worlds! May your bucket list never get too short. The more we live, the more we want to see. Enjoy, and may you have lots of chocolate, wine and great memories on your birthday.

  9. Dorian says:

    Congratulations, Doreen for making your visit to Pisa one that inspires and informs. I, too thought that Pisa was nothing but the tower and am surprised to see that it is a forward-thinking city with much to attract. Your description of the “Chocolate experience” was wonderful. Nuances of the taste, smell and look of chocolate made it very descriiptive. Thanks so much.

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