You’re planning your next Italian weekend getaway, but have already been to Rome, Florence, Naples, Bologna and Milan. So, where to next? Maybe Turin could be just what you’re looking for. Although it might not rival the beauty of other Italian places (but to be fair, there’s a lot of competition), in many ways Turin is the ideal weekend break destination because a) it’s a big city with a great cultural scene, b) it’s well connected through its own airport and that of Milan, which is only a 2h bus drive away, c) it’s beautifully situated at the foot of the Alps and at the heart of the Piedmont region, and hence forms the perfect basis to discover other parts of this corner of Italy, and of course d) it has AMAZING FOOD – this is Italy after all!
For me, this was reason enough to pay a visit to this remarkable city a few weeks ago (and it also just so happened that my other half and I got a birthday party invitation of someone living in neighbouring Alba, but more about that in another post…).
Now, I have to admit that winter might not be the best season to visit Turin, as the city tends to get covered in a layer of fog a lot of the time, BUT that doesn’t stop one from discovering all that this place has to offer. And you’ll also have the perfect excuse to spend more time inside eating, because let’s be honest, the best way to discover any Italian city is by using your taste buds.
So, once you have seen the historic city centre with its royal palaces, elegant squares and grand avenues (Turin once used to be the capital of the Kingdom of Italy), have visited the iconic FIAT factory (this city is the home of the Italian car industry) and have discovered the history of Italian cinema at the National Cinema Museum inside the Mole (the city’s most remarkable building) it’s time to move on to that other important ingredient of your Turin experience: the food.
A warning though for vegetarians: unlike the rest of Italy, they eat A LOT of meat in Piedmont. If you do eat meat, good news, because the meat dishes here are de-li-cious. One of the most popular ones is carne cruda (literally: raw meat), Piedmont’s version of steak tartare. Made of extremely tender and finely sliced raw beef and marinated in lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper this is a truly authentic local dish, best enjoyed with some truffle shavings (Piedmont is THE Italian truffle region, after all). Also very typical is vitello tonnato, a dish of cold slices of veal covered in a mayonaise-tuna sauce.
Of course, no Italian meal is complete with a pasta dish. In Turin, this includes agnolotti or plin – a sort of meat-filled ravioli – and tajarin, extremely thin stripes of egg-based pasta, served with a (meat-based) sauce and (when available) sliced truffle. To make sure no one will suffer from carb-deficiency (because, you know), meals are usually accompanied by grissini, thin bread sticks.
Like neighbouring France, Piedmont is also famous for its variety of cheeses and cheese dishes. One dish you cannot miss is fonduta, Piedmont’s answer to fondue. It’s made with butter, milk, egg yolk and of course cheese and served with (again) truffle and it’s just divine.
There are plenty of places in Turin where you can find these local dishes, but I had excellent versions of all of the above at Taverna dell’Oca and Scannabue, both in the city centre.
All of this is best enjoyed with a glass of local wine. Piedmont has some of the country’s best wines, including the renown Barolo, Barbaresco, Barbera and Nebbiolo. I’m not a wine connoisseur, but my oh my these wines are lovely! Fancy something stronger? How about a Martini? The famous drink originated in Turin in 1863 and is still as fashionable as ever. Wallpaper, on the other side of the river Po, serves some great Martinis and other cocktails.
The city’s other famous drink is bicerin, a cup of hot chocolate, milk and espresso. The most renown place to have a cup of this delight is at Caffè al Bicerin. It’s worth the queue (or have yours outside)!
Do keep some space for a ‘proper’ dessert though, because they make some great cakes and pastry in Piedmont. Oh and chocolate. That’s right, this hazelnut-growing region gave us Nutella and Ferrero Rocher – can it get any better? Uhm yes, I discovered there’s such a thing as solid Nutella and it’s called gianduiotto and it’s heaven…!!
Turin, you have conquered my… stomach