Drops of Joy
by Anita Santorum
There is a place in Turin where anyone can become a child again. This magical place is the Pastiglie Leone factory. Named after the founder, Luigi Leone (which means ‘lion’), this factory produces the most delicious, original and colorful sweets and chocolates in Italy.
Last week I went with my dad to their factory shop, called La Bocca del Leone (the lion’s mouth). We drove through an industrial area in Collegno, at the west outskirts of Turin, and we already started smiling at the view of the factory building: pastel colored walls – pink, violet, turquoise, yellow, peach – crowned by the logo Leone written in elegant vintage calligraphy.
As we entered the shop, we were greeted by a rainbow of colors and a variety of sweet aromas from the candy displays on the shelves and the trays and boxes with free samples (yes! we could sample anything we wanted!). We were like children … ‘look at that, try this, taste that!’ Sugar drops in violet shapes and violet flavor, peach and amaretto chocolate fondants, a variety of pastiglie (the original candies – little drops of flavored pastel colored sugar), gianduiotti (the typical trapeze shaped small chocolates from Piedmont) and much more.
My dad remembered a sweet with liquorice that his mom loved 80 something years ago and, sure enough, with the help of the friendly shopkeeper, he found it! I have not seen him this radiant in years!
We filled our baskets with small gifts for friends of all ages. Colored boxes of pastiglie with exquisite designs and different flavors for personalized gifts: Spritz flavor pastiglie (the classic Italian aperitif!) for my friends wrapped in orange paper, violet and vanilla flavor pastiglie in small boxes with kittens and puppies for children, violet flavored sugar drops for the ladies I play Bridge with and a box of pastiglie with the Juventus soccer team flag for my dad’s best friend. We could hardly wait to share the joy we just experienced with our loved ones.
Pastiglie Leone has been producing exquisite confectioneries since 1857, bringing unforgettable moments of pure delight to thousands and thousands of children, ladies, who can indulge a sweet craving without worrying about their waste line, gentlemen, noblemen and royals. Camillo Benso Count of Cavour, the first Prime Minister of unified Italy, was known for loving the violet flavored drops of liquorices, which are still called, in his honor, the “Senatours”.
Pastiglie Leone perfectly represents the Italian family-run artisan business, which combines unique creativity in product and packaging design with the pursuit of excellence. Founded by Luigi Leone in Alba in 1857, the factory was soon moved to Turin and bought by the Monero family in 1934. Under the strong and courageous leadership of Giselda Balla Monero, who became known as ‘The Lioness’, the factory grew rapidly in spite of bombing during World War II and several economic crises. Giselda remains as a luminous example of Italian women entrepreneurs.
The Monero family is still successfully leading the factory well into the 21st century, with Guido Monero, Giselda’s son and his family. They continue to focus on tradition and product excellence, using only the best quality and natural ingredients, to the point that the brand name has been used for decades by people in Turin as synonymous with perfection: when something is well done, we say it’s “d’marca Leon” (the Leone’s brand).
Leone’s most famous original candies are tiny flavored sugar drops, semi-cone shaped, the size of little finger nails. They come in over 40 flavors, including traditional recipes such as violet, anise, mint, cinnamon, lemon, orange and vanilla, as well as innovative tastes, such as Spritz, chocolate cake, Christmas biscuits, panettoneand green tea.
The pastiglie’s packaging is as special as the candies themselves. Vintage tin boxes have long become collectors’ items and are a unique souvenir idea from Turin. The pastiglie come in either colored paper boxes or decorated tins, with art nouveau and liberty designs inspired by fashion, childhood memories and special events, such as the limited edition for the launch of Lupin III cartoon movie, for the Milan Expo 2015 and in support of an Amnesty International campaign. For even more personalized gifts (and for orders of a minimum of 100 pieces), it’s possible to have custom-made boxes for weddings, Christenings and other events, with your own name printed on each one of them!
Whether you are living in Turin or just visiting, make the time to visit the Leone’s factory and shop for a unique experience. Pastiglie Leone is open Tuesday to Saturday and there are guided visits to the factory organized monthly by the Turin Tourist Board, which can be booked in advance here:
Just make sure you come away with a bag full of gifts for yourself, your old friends and the new friends you will make when sharing these wonderful candies! Whenever I gave a box to one of my friends or offered a sweet to a perfect stranger on the train or at a café, I could see the joy in their smile and eyes. That’s the Italian way…to give love sharing the finest foods and delights. Come to Turin and visit more of Piedmont to experience the joy of giving and receiving love through the tiniest sweets.