Though meringue is supposedly Swiss in origin, Italians are great lovers of the confection in all forms. Pastry shops abound with delicate, baroque pyramids of meringues interspersed with rosettes of whipped cream and strawberries or generous dollops of chestnut filling. Chocolate meringue, flavored with cocoa powder, is also popular, but it is not, to my knowledge, used interchangeably in desserts with plain meringue.
The type of meringue most commonly found in these desserts is an ordinary one in which the egg whites are whipped, a portion of the sugar is then whipped into the whites, and the remaining sugar is folded in by hand. The meringue is piped or shaped and baked at a low temperature until crisp and dry. For chocolate meringue, cocoa powder is added with the second part of the sugar, and it is baked at a slightly higher temperature. So-called Italian meringue, the type in which the egg whites are whipped and then doused with a hot sugar syrup, is used mainly in the preparation of semifreddi, or frozen desserts (see Ices and Frozen Desserts), to lighten them and is not usually baked.