For 100 years Baci Perugina has been an all-Italian story in which gastronomic tradition and entrepreneurial stubbornness have given life to a classic of tricolor design, for a ritual that is renewed every Valentine's Day

The name Luisa Spagnoli makes fashion lovers jump but not everyone perhaps knows that it is to the same entrepreneur that we owe another pillar of Made in Italy design: the Baci Perugina. We said design not by chance: because - read their story to believe it - the chocolates traditionally associated with Valentine's Day are in effect a patent worthy of the Compasso D'Oro.

Everything starts with a punch

The history of the Baci has deep roots, which bring us back to the elegant and entrepreneurially prosperous Perugia between the two wars. Here, in 1922, the Perugina - the company founded in 1907 by Annibale Spagnoli (Luisa's father) and Francesco Buitoni, former heir of the historic Tuscan pasta factory, together with Leone Ascoli and Francesco Andreani for an impressive share capital of 100,000 Lire - patents his 'Cazzotti', chocolates with an unusual shape, precisely, with a closed fist.

Their birth is attributed to an intuition of Luisa Spagnoli, who was looking for solutions to the waste of hazelnut grains left over from the processing of chocolate. Hence the historic recipe for the dessert: the grain, like blue stars on its silver packaging, studded a sky of sweet gianduia cream, wrapped in a whole hazelnut, and encapsulated in a Luisa dark chocolate shell.

From Luisa's granola to Bacio

Once the recipe had been created, however, the marketing spark was needed capable of transforming the chocolate into a success capable of going beyond the boundaries of the boot. On the other hand, we are in the 1920s, and crossing the threshold of an elegant provincial patisserie and, with a polite smile on your face, requesting a punch from the equally cutlery committed would have been slightly out of place.

Especially because, as the tradition of Italian comedy teaches, escapades proliferate in the most intimate and sober provinces, in the shadow of bell towers and historic café signs. And it is precisely from a liason, the one between Luisa Spagnoli and the director of Perugina Giovanni Buitoni, son of the founding partner Francesco, that the spark is triggered.

Baci : this is the name proposed by Buitoni, who with four simple letters captures all the erotic voluptuousness of the lips that blend with the chocolate, sinking into the brand new Perugina filling. Sweetening the day with a kiss, or indulging in a break from the diet, in fact, causes a pleasure so similar to that of a lover who can finally meet the mouth of her better half.

The shape of the Kiss

Even the shape of the chocolate is updated, acquiring the silhouette known today and which - according to some - was thought of as lustful reference to the female chest, in the style of the Apulian Nun's Tits or the Catanese Virgin's Breasts (also known as Minnuzze di Sant'Agata).

A shape that, if the Baci were an architecture, would combine the timeless elegance of the religious buildings with a central plan and their domes with the harmonious solidity of the concrete Bini Shells patented by Dante Bini, a refuge of intimacy by Monica Vitti and Michelangelo Antonioni.

I Baci Perugina made the history of communication

As if this were not in itself sufficient to give the Baci Perugina the status of tricolor design icon, there is communication conceived by Luigi Seneca. The advertiser who is credited with the birthplace of modern communication in Italy between the 1920s and 1950s was in those years artistic director of Perugina and Buitoni, companies for which he employed his genius and his trait that combines the influence of Depero's futurism with cubist tastes and metaphysical hints.

The secrets of love messages

He is responsible for the intuition of the messages of love in the wrapping. The phrases, initially born as witticisms signed by Seneca himself - so as to juxtapose playful maxims to the name of the Latin thinker, creating incredulity and amused confusion among the customers - became romantic over time. Some say that the cards that Luisa Spagnoli gave to her lover Giovanni Buitoni, shrewdly hidden in boxes of chocolates, inspired its birth. According to other sources, however, it was Buitoni who imported them from America.

The landing in America

It was here, in New York, that the definitive international success of the Baci was sanctioned in 1939, with the opening on Fifth Avenue of the first American store of the Umbrian company.

A success also dictated by the communication campaigns conceived by Seneca who was inspired by the famous Bacio by Francesco Hayez, modifying the volumes - now more in keeping with the Cubist influence on the painting of the time - and making it even more enigmatic.

Design and innovation

Design, however, also means technological innovation, which is what the Baci packaging introduced. The correspondence studied by Perugina, in fact, was the first in Italy with self-insulating properties , allowing to abandon the traditional tin boxes in favor of more practices - today we would say recyclable - carton packs.

In this direction, Perugina was also the first confectionery company in Italy to offer, on the initiative of Giovanni Buitoni, packaged boxes of assorted chocolates, thanks also to a renewed range of products that by 1925 comes to include three other sweets that both in shape and in packaging wink at design: Banane Perugina, Bean and the famous Dimmi Di Sì.

Simple and immediate

These are the foundations for a success capable of lasting over time, and which passes through simple but unforgettable slogans, such as the "more kisses, more like you" of the early nineties, for the Carosello of '57 with Vittorio Gassman and Frank Sinatra to act as a testimonial, and also for the introduction of packs capable of making school, such as the tubular ones introduced in 1981 and accompanied by the irreverent tag line "Tubiamo?".

Until today, with the messages translated into six languages, the collaborations with Fedez and those with Dolce & amp; Gabbana.

And Luisa?

Meanwhile, there is the unparalleled entrepreneurial momentum of Luisa Spagnoli, who does not pay for the success of the Baci, invests in an angora rabbit farm, launching her homonymous maison which in the years of gold of Hollywood on the Tiber will see its greatest protagonists among customers.

It is always on the initiative of Spagnoli that the first Italian company nursery is built, a pioneering example designed for the needs of the female workforce, which will be followed, among others, by those of the Lanerossi plant in Schio, Vicenza, and the one wanted by Adriano Olivetti in Ivrea.

The success of Baci Perugina? They are the two faces of love

In the Kisses, therefore, we have found for a hundred years the two faces of love, the lustful one, of two lovers, and the affective one, which over time has led them to become a caress, to be exchanged also between friends, or between children and mothers, as suggested by the advertising campaigns of the 70s for Mother's Day.

In this ability to become an unmistakable visual icon of Italian everyday life, therefore, lies the true greatness of an intuition born a century ago in a chocolate shop in Perugia.