Sei golosa!! You’re a glutton! I often hear that in Italy. In America, I’m what you’d call a sweet tooth. Everywhere I go I tend to check out the candy counter.
I’m not talking today about chocolate or gum today, just “caramelle” which are considered usually hard candies or non-chocolate sweets in Italy. There are some clear sub-types of caramelle and their well-known brands. There are a few which would be considered “gommosi” or gummy-like, but not gummies in the traditional Haribo sense.
These are also predominantly made directly in Italy and not imported. In a typical Tabaccaio or even supermarket, you will find many more foreign brands and candies available that are quite popular.
At the end is a contest and I’m giving away a kilo of these candies, free!
- Liquorice, Anice and Herbal candies
- Milk candies
- “Mou” Toffee and Gelatin fruit candies
- Dietorelle “diet” candies
- Honey hard candies
- Pastiglie Leone
- Inside a Tobaccaio and candies you might find there
- Rossana and Negrita
- The contest!
Liquorice, Anice and Herbal candies
I couldn’t start off talking about Italians and their candy without talking about liquorice, anice and herbal candies. I’ve seen that the flavor preferences of any country are reflected in their gum, and also in their toothpaste flavors. The first time I saw an herbal toothpaste flavor here, I did a double take. And yes, it tastes herbal.
Much like the Americans love their cinnamon and peppermint flavors, Italians love liquorice and anise flavors. Unfortunately, this is a class of flavors that I can’t tolerate in large quantities or strong intensity. For some time, I stopped buying gum until I could figure out which brand didn’t have a liquorice or anice undertone.
Possibly the most popular liquorice candy is Golia (pictured far right) – tiny little white wrappers with a chewy/gummy liquorice button inside. Other than these “classiche,” Golia has branched out into many non-liquorice varieties, including mint, fruit and balsamic varieties.
Herbal flavors are quite popular in Italian candies and I’ve enjoyed rediscovering some flavors that I wasn’t used to finding in candy. The smartly-wrapped candies on the left by Mera & Longhi have become my fast favorite. The best thing is every bag is a completely different mix of flavors and no two is alike. I didn’t even see a cannella (cinnamon) flavored one until my 5th bag. Flavors pictured are: genziana (gentian), camomilla (chamomile), anice (anise), salvia e limone (sage-lemon), ginepro (juniper), and bergamotto (bergamot), but there are many more. My friends decided that rhubarb was by far the worst flavor (not pictured).
Another popular mint flavor is a variety of Fernet Branca liquor called Branca Menta. This particular candy is called Fernet Menta (top right), which is not an official brand name of liquor so it can be used on a candy. It has a bit of a wintergreen flavor. Peppermint and spearmint flavors are not common, though a few varieties of gum have a peppermint flavor.
Milk is good for children, right? So of course a candy that uses predominantly or is based on milk will be good for children, too. Kinder is of course a wonderful example of how convincing parents milk in candy makes it more nutritional.
The most popular milk candy in Italy is arguably “Galatine” – and almost all Italians I’ve met ate it at one point in their childhood. An interesting note – when I put out a basket of these candies later, they were the first to disappear.
Galatine in their classic form are simple white tablets which are compressed milk and sugar. You can crunch them or savour them, and every person has their preference. Now Galatine come in different forms – with chocolate bits (pictured), in gummy form, but the classic version remains the ones the Italians remember. At least this grown-up generation.
“Mou” Toffee and Gelatin fruit candies
Mou, or toffee/taffy made with milk (pictured right), exist in many flavors, from coffee to liquorice and mint mentioned above. Fruit flavors are also popular in a gelee / gelatin form (pictured left) like lampone (raspberry), fragola (strawberry), limone (lemon), pesca (peach), and arancia (orange).
Dietorelle “diet” candies
Dietorelle is a brand that made itself famous focusing on sugar-free candies, so you can eat candy and stay “in forma.” There are other sugar-free brands but Dietorelle is the most widely-known. They are available in almost any flavor combination and can be gummy, hard candies or mou. Pictured here are chewy fruit flavors.
Honey hard candies
I spoke about some honey makers’ products that I enjoy from Gruppo Apicoltori Riuniti They also make all sorts of honey candies paired with other flavors like lemon, erbe alpine (alpine herbs), gentian and even liquorice. Ambrosoli candies are often eaten when you have a sore throat and now they are saying that honey is a natural cure and can even be used to dress wounds! For now, I’ll just eat it in my candy.
I couldn’t talk about Italian candies without mentioning the little boxed candies from Torino, Pastiglie Leone. Perhaps known more for their old-world packaging than for their individual flavors, they keep innovating and bringing out new flavors like Assenzio (Absinthe), Te Verde (Green Tea), and Caffe’ (Coffee). I love the special metal tins (left) and I refill those with my favorites.
Before gorging yourself on their candies, make sure you read if it’s a “dissetanti” (thirst-quencher) or “digestive” first as eating too many of them might give you a stomach-ache!
Inside a Tabaccaio and (Other) Popular Candies You Might Find There
When I was a child, the supermarket was where I went for a huge display of candy. Usually an additional display right as you were checking out, in Italy there is a candy aisle in most supermarkets, but at the checkout lines, they are usually monopolized by all things Kinder. To get a wide variety of gum, hard candy and other individually-packaged candy, the local Tabaccaio (Tobacco seller) is the place to go. Since they sell other things like bus tickets, your chances of running into one is high. They are usually quite small, so vertical space is used as much as possible and the candy displays are everywhere.
And just in case any government officials are watching: there is no tobacco in this picture, neither am I promoting nor advertising the use of tobacco and/or cigarettes!!
Here are some other candies you might find in a Tabaccaio:
From lower left: La Pasticca del Re Sole are liquorice flavored candies my coworker loves. Probably the first candy you could afford with your own money is gummy Goleador (liquorice and cola flavors). Zigulivit are vitamin-like pellet candies that have some added nutritional value and come in several fruit flavors. Alpenliebe candies are sugar-free versions of caramel Werther’s Original. Fruitella, similar to Starburst in America, are usually fruit-based chewy candies (pictured here in strawberry). The last candy in this picture is perhaps the strangest candy that I’ve come across in Italy. It’s called Pip and it’s “the smoker’s candy.” The packaging makes it look like a cigar which doesn’t make it that appetizing in my opinion. The verdict? Strong candies but since they have such a strong undertone of liquorice, they are not for me.
Two random candies: Rossana and Negrita
I couldn’t leave these two out for this introduction.
Negrita were candies that I found several years ago and their little black faces and the (random) shiny spot make them look a little bit like olives on the package. Inside, however, is a delicious chocolate-covered “croccantino” of caramelized nuts. Yes, this does have chocolate in it, but it’s so interesting I had to include it.
Rossana from Perugina are candies that an Italian child might find in his “Befana” stocking – S always picks them out from our pile. Hard candy outside with a liquid hazelnut cream inside, this pretty package brings back memories for a lot of my friends.
The Contest: Free Candy for You and a Fellow Commenter!
Now it’s your turn. Do you want to win a 1/2 kilo box full of all the candies* I’ve talked about today? What about one for a friend, too? (*Candies that are individually wrapped)
Which of these candies most inspires you? Repulses you? What about your favorite childhood candy?
This giveaway is a little different from the past. There will be TWO winners! Here’s what to do:
- Leave a comment here until January 25th (Friday!) (comment only once, your email address must be valid, but will not be displayed)
- Send this post to a friend or many friends and ask them to comment if interested!
- I’ll pick one winner and ask them to tell me the number of the other commenter they’d like to win, and that person will get a package, too!