The success of Italian cuisine around the world is really a testament to how seriously Italians take food. I imagine you may have heard of Barilla and Nutella, but there are plenty of other iconic food brands that are famous closer to home. Take Pastiglie Leone, a candy manufacturer that has been delighting palates since the unification of Italy.
The vintage sweets are still sold in old timey boxes, which makes me love them even more. The design of the tiny matchboxes is as much a part of the Leone experience as eating the actual candies.
The sweets were first created in 1857 at the confectionary shop of Luigi Leone. Leone dreamed up the little intensely-flavored sweets to be used as digestives. The first flavors, like peppermint and cinnamon, were meant to be consumed after large meals.
The dried candies soon found a loyal following and Leone decided to move production from his hometown of Alba to Torino. Torino was absolutely the place to be. It was (briefly) the first capital of Italy following the country’s unification in 1861.
The bon-bon boxes became an instant success when they are seen being flaunted by no other than Cavour himself. He always has them on hand when he is out giving political speeches about the unification. The Italian statesman put the Violet-flavored Leone treats on the map. His love for the candies is why the packaging still features the Royal Housee of Savoy’s ensign.
These days, you can find the ever-fashionable candies at sweet shops, tabbachi, and specialty food stores. Pastiglie Leone’s packaging is still charming and makes a nice little keepsake to take home. You can find them in tins or little boxes in a rainbow of colors. They are either gummy or small, hard candies.
Sure beats a simple tic tac. I couldn’t resist when I found a Spritz flavored version.
Be sure to also find some Pocket Coffee if you want to sample more typical Italian candy.