Notes on chocolate: pistachio bars on a family holiday in Italy

Rome: Iam in Avellino, southern Italy. We have taken my mum home to her final resting place and the trip has been sad, but healing. Plugging into my enormous Italian family never fails to make me feel part of something deep and sustaining. I have bought chocolate for them (largely, Waitrose No 1 bars), a poor substitute for the lavish hospitality I am shown every minute of every day.

I grew up here part-time as a child and every corner has a story: the steps where I used to play, pretending I was from New York (because London didn’t sound glamorous enough). My grandmother’s old house that we left when I was five, and that summer when I lived, aged three, in my stripy towelling bikini. The street I was chased down by pubescent boys on their motorini when I was just 16. Back then viewing it as thrilling, now slightly differently. But there are no children, young or old playing on the streets any more. Is it the weather, I ask? No, the neighbour’s son says, no one plays out on the street any more.

I take a rare solo trip to the supermarket and buy a bar of Novi Piu – the ‘piu’ means more and this little bar is stuffed with the nut of the moment: pistachio. I eat it looking down the river, remembering tales of my mum washing the family linen on the bank. Here is where I learned the power of chocolate, watching my grandmother give it as a test to see if a child was sick enough to call the doctor.

Novi Piu bars are nearly impossible to get here. But they put me in mind of Marou’s snack bars. My favourite is the Ironman, £2.95. Much better for you, too.