Last year I took part to the Lavazza Coffee Set Match bloggers competition and, thanks to my coffee-based recipes, I won the first prize: tickets to Wimbledon and a trip to Turin! I had never been to Turin, so I was very excited about finally visiting this city.
Located in the north-west of Italy, in the region of Piedmont, Turin lays on the bank of the Po River, in front of Susa Valley and surrounded by the Alps. It's close to the French borders as well as to Liguria and the Italian coast.
Not only it is one of Italy's main industrial centres, Turin is also a city rich of culture and history. After all, in 1861 it became the first capital city of Italian kingdom. It is a beautiful city, full of museums, renowned universities, elegant buildings, squares and gardens.
Turin and Piedmont are famous for the great food and wine they have to offer.
The Langhe area, on the outskirts of Turin, is famous for the wines, such as Barolo, Barbaresco, Barbera, Dolcetto and Moscato D'Asti, and for its white truffles.
Turin's local cuisine is reknown throughout Italy, with dishes such as bagna càuda and agnolotti. It is also considered the birthplace of aperitivo: the social practice of people meeting to have a Campari or prosecco, while nibbling on crisps and peanuts, focaccia and frittata, or charcuterie and cheese.
Since the mid-eighties, Turin has also benefited from the start of the Slow Food movement, which has highlighted the rich agricultural and vinicultural value of Piedmont, and Terra Madre, the organisation that helds Salone del Gusto every two years.
Finally, Turin is famous for Eataly, a huge food court affiliated with Slow Food, where you can find hundreds of types of pasta, fresh vegetables, meats and cheeses, wines, luxury chocolates as well as hot food counters, eating areas and demonstration kitchens.
My favorite part was the grocery and bakery section, where I became lost among the dozens and dozens of olive oils from every corner of Italy; colorful jars of pristine vegetables; a multitude of honeys, vinegars, and condiments; sacks of organic flours, grains, and Italian heirloom beans; and bags of pasta made only with Italian wheat.
We arrived in Turin on a Friday morning and headed straight to the Lavazza HQ, for a visit of the Innovation Center and the factory. More to come on this soon!
We checked in at NH Hotel Santo Stefano, a modern hotel with restaurant facing a cloister, a roof-top terrace with stunning views of the city and such a comfortable room that it was hard for us to leave it at all!
The location was great: right by the Porta Palatina, the Palatine gate which allowed access to the city in the ancient Roman times, and the newly gentrified Quadrilatero Romano, characterised by a typical Roman street grid. What used to be an abandoned and rough neighbourhood, was cleaned-up in the Nineties and is now a fashionable district with a lively bar scene.
That's where we met the guys behind of Fernando Wine for an aperitivo at Il Bacaro, in Piazza della Consolata. After a glass of wine and a lovely chat, me and Sandy walked to the nearby L'Acino for dinner. I loved it: a small wine bar and restaurant, with only ten tables and four or five main courses to choose from. We were lucky and found a table straight away. The service was good, attentive and quick.
We asked the owner to recommend us the best dishes and wines to go with them. We ordered "Ravioli con Toma del Lait Brusc" and "Agnolotti del Plin", and a glass of Barbera red wine.
The next day we had lunch at Caffé-Vini Emilio Ranzini, a wine bar near Porta Palatina, with a few tables, a tiny backyard, '50s furniture and authentic Piedmont flavours. We shared a platter of cheese and vegetables, and drank a glass of Barbera.
Saturday was a day dedicated to coffee and the beautiful caffè letterari of Turin: magnificent historical cafès with marble tables and mirrored walls, where the torinesi spend hours drinking coffee (or having aperitivo), reading newspapers and chatting, much like public living rooms.
Lavazza organised a "coffee tour" for us with professional guide Carol Bazzani. Incredibly knowledgeable on the history of the city as well as its fun facts, Carol spoke to us in perfect Italian and English and adapted the tour to our needs: focusing on food and coffee.
A tour of Turin's cafès must start from El Bicerin; there we tried the house speciality of the same name: an espresso served in a small rounded glass, filled with hot chocolate and topped with creamy whole milk.
A journey into the world of Turin's coffee shops also means tasting the city's best chocolate, as these two products often go together.
Turin produces a typical chocolate called Gianduiotto, a creamy-textured hazelnut-flavoured chocolate. The most famous Piedmontese chocolate producers are Caffarel, Streglio, Venchi, but most of the historical cafès also produce their gianduiotti of great quality.
My favourite chocolate discovery was Guido Gobino's shop. I loved the single blend dark chocolates, the classic cremini and the gianduja spread. I was also fascinated by the big giandujone that is sold by the slice!
Our coffee tour continued with Baratti & Milano, a beautiful Art Nouveau cafè open since 1873 in Piazza Castello. Then it was only a short walk to Piazza San Carlo, a big pedestrian square which reminded me of Place Vendôme in Paris. Under the elegant arcades, you will find some of the most famous cafès of Turin: Caffè San Carlo, Caffè Torino and the confectioner's Fratelli Stratta.
Gleaming marble floors, crystal chandeliers, sweeping staircases, shelf after shelf of sumptuous-looking pastries just begging you to eat them, and solicitous waiters dashing around in crisp white aprons [...] a belle époque masterpiece in a bustling 21st-century city.
On our way back to Porta Palatina, we visited San Tommaso 10 where the very first Lavazza shop opened in 1895. It is now a cafè as well as an elegant restaurant, often crowded by members of the Turin bourgeoisie.
Lavazza, which has its main roasting plant just outside Turin, rules the roost in the Piedmonte region. Its smooth blends somehow fit this city of wide boulevards (many of them flanked by more of those porticos), flash boutiques, orderly traffic (Torinese drivers even slow down to let you cross the road) and refined approach to life.
Our tour of Turin ended with a visit to the Porta Palazzo farmers market, the biggest in Europe (it occupies a big square, several side streets and also three indoors markets).
Beautiful courgette flowers, cardi (used to make the typical bagna càuda) and topinambur, (Jerusalem artichokes), as well as cheese, fresh fish, beans and spices. The traders were all very friendly and welcoming, often even posing for my photos!
At the end of the day, we walked to the river PO and arrived just in time to watch the sun go down and the lights come up in the city. A great way to end two wonderful days in Turin!
Disclaimer: I won the trip with the Lavazza Coffee Set Match competition. All view are my own.