I first came to Turin (capital of the Piedmont region) in 2001 on my very first work tour and hadn’t been sent back since. I have fond memories of that visit, especially the chocolate shops and cafes for which the city is justly famous.
As well as creating gianduja (the classic combination of chocolate and hazelnut paste) which is then used to make individual Gianduiotti, Turin also gave the world vermouth (fortified flavoured wine), grissini (breadsticks), and zabaglione (a sweet dessert custard that includes sweet wine).
Perhaps the most famous chocolatier is Guido Gobino, whose factory is located at 15B Via Cagliari. It’s a little out of the way (on the east side of the river) but it has a shop where you can buy presents for the choco dependenti (chocoholics) in your life who will love you forever (or at least till the end of the box) when you bring one of their presentation packs home.
The building can be spotted by this big mural on the side wall also by the rich smell of chocolate will hit you first as you come down the street. You have to ring the bell to get into the shop, perhaps a few times till someone answers. There are free samples to help you make up your mind and the nice lady who served me answered all my questions in English. I also bought this book there.
The most famous producers of vermouth also all hail from Turin, including Martini, Cinzano, as well as the original creator of the drink Carpano who make my favourite red vermouth, the Antica Formula |(since 1796). It makes a killer Negroni, particularly in combination with Heston Blumentahl’s Early Grey gin from Waitrose.
The headquarters of the Slow Food movement (motto: ‘buono, pulito e giusto’ or ‘good, clean and fair’) are also here. A few years ago they opened a new shop, cheesily named Eataly, which is actually located in the old Carpano factory on Via Nizza (the street down the east side of the main station. It’s basically a large covered market where you can buy great food related produce and products from all over the country, or eat at one of several quality food outlets. It’s a gourmet’s paradise and a must visit if you’re into your grub. It’s best to take a taxi to get here though as it’s not really walkable as I found out after pounding pavement for about an hour from the station.
In Italy 5 till 7pm is aperitivo time and the Torinesi have turned this into an art form, accompanying their Negroni’s with a huge selection of ‘stuzzichini’ or plates of nibbles such as canapés, mini-sandwiches, tiny sausage rolls etc. These mini feasts can be a meal in themselves so I try to avoid them if I’m going to eat out as they have ruined my appetite more than once.
A few facts about Turin:
For four years it was the capital and home of the parliament of the fledgling Italian republic which celebrated 150 years in 2011.
The city also has a fantastic Egyptian museum, the Museo Egizio on Via Acdemia delle Scienze, with a collection of mummies and sarcophagi to rival the Cairo Museum.
There are over 18km of porticos, covered walkways along the main streets, which were first built to keep royal heads dry from the rain.
There are many kilometres of tunnels under the city, some of which were dug during the siege of the city by the French in 1706 as a way of detecting the enemy themselves digging under the walls of the citadel. You can go on a tour of these if you’re interested.