The Belgians and the Swiss may get all the kudos, but Europe has Spain to thanks for chocolate.
Cocoa made its way from south America via the conquistadores, and it was the Spanish court that first popularised the Aztec drink. Barcelona, which has important trade links with the Americas, became the centre of a burgeoning chocolate industry. The Casa Amatller on Passeig de Gràcia was one of many mansions paid for by chocolate, thanks to the Amatller family business, established in 1797.
Guided tours of the mansion offer a fascinating glimpse into the Modernista movement, the Amatller family, and the world of Catalan bourgeoisie at the end of the 19th century. Wealthi industrialist Antoni Amatller, grandson of the chocolate-making firm’s founders, bought a mansion on newly fasionable Passeig de Gracia and commissioned hot young architect Josep Puig i Cadafalch to remodel it into a showpiece home. The result is a heady fusion of neo-medieval styles and popular techniques such as tiling, ironwork and woodwork celebrated by the Modernista movement.
Tour begin in the opulent, neoGothic vestibule of the ground floor, and pick out delightful details and provide amusing anecdotes, including the story of Amatller’s motor car: early motor cars did not have a reverse gear and so a special turntable was built inside the hall to turn the car around. The visit continues in Amatller’s top floor photography studio with a 30-minutes slide show, fleshing out the family history and its local context, and includes a selection of beautiful photographs depicting the mansion just after its completion in 1900.
A cup of thich hot chocolate awaits at the end of the tour, served in the former kitchen.