Here are some final impressions of my excellent, food-themed days in Turin. The trip, arranged by locals, was a real treat.
First I want to take you to Piazza della Consolata.
It is a small piazza, full of angles, built on an old corner of the city.
The red brick tower of Sant’ Andrea stands tallest, right beside the white columned front of the Santuario della Consolata. These two, both old, jostle for attention while opposite them sits the small, historic café – Al Bicerin.
I’ll start with the café.
We are there on a blazing blue day, too late for an inside seat. Outside it’s quiet and pretty with umbrellas to soak up the sunshine. We choose our table and relax – semi-shaded and semi-melted. A perfect pause to try the local coffee – bicerin.
Bicerin is a hot drink, almost a food, served in a solid wine glass. It’s proud, and famous and surely made for winter. Chocolate fills the bottom of the glass, then comes espresso, with a crown of cream over the top.
It is this trophy of coffee and chocolate that reaches me out in the midday sun. I sip it as boldly as I can, but I know I need to come back when the weather is cold to really appreciate its richness and warmth.
Caffè Al Bicerin and its famous drink have been at this old heart of Turin for 255 years, ideally placed to serve those who visit ‘Consolata’ (Consolation), the santuario opposite.
Consolata is on a site that has hosted a church since the fifth century, and before that a pagan temple. Today’s interior is ornate, and its belief is focused on the Virgin Mary.
Outside, immediately next door, trenches reveal old Roman foundations – a reminder of the layers of life.
We move from the small intensity of Bicerin to Porto Palazzo – the huge, outdoor market in Turin, big enough to spend a whole day in.
We don’t have that long so we sweep through like fish in a current, past chilled freezers of meats and cheeses; around iced displays from the oceans; and then weave through miles of tables, bent under fresh produce. It’s well worth the visit just for the scale and freshness of it all. It’s real food with less of the chain attached.
I spend my last morning in Turin in one of the city’s smart shopping areas.
The day begins with cappuccino and cake, on the edge of the gentle space of Piazza San Carlo.
Opposite my little table are the two churches of Santa Catarina and San Carlo, while just across from me is the lively statue of Emmanuel Philibert Duke of Savoy…not such a quiet morning for him.
As the sun lifts the shadows off the piazza I head towards the shops of Via Roma, amongst the giant colonnades of Turin’s fascist architecture.
The shift in mood is dramatic and immediate. Suddenly the churches and poetry of the old piazza are gone, stomped underfoot by giant fascist columns.
The big, polished legs of Via Roma are steel grey and dominant. They stride into the distance like giants, trailing cool shade and tiny pedestrians behind them. It’s all about power…and not just in Via Roma. There are other fistfuls of fascist architecture around the city – all part of what makes Turin such a fascinating place to visit.
I try to capture the strength of Via Roma with my camera but never quite manage. Instead I’m drawn in, like a moth to the flame, lured by the bright gleam of the shop windows.
Do I mind? No. It’s all a pleasure. I don’t buy much but I hesitate often and everywhere, and am tempted always by the helpful, friendly service.
Turin the Temptress – good with people, not in a lively, unforgettable way, but in a way that makes being there so easy. The city is not too big, or too crowded or too frantic, and it’s confident enough to try new ideas. Food as a feature is one of the possibilities – slow food, real food, good food.
I loved my visit to Turin, and I wouldn’t hesitate to go again. My reasons, in no particular order: the food and wine; the shopping; the architecture; the Po…and all that’s left to explore.
My thanks again to Turin Epicurian Capital for the introduction.
Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2018