Navyo invites with words and photographs to visit the capital of Piedmont region in northern Italy.
Classic caffès are the essence of Turin – Caffè Torino, Fiorio, Baratti e Milano, Mulassano to name a few. Like so many of them, Caffè Torino is all old world elegance with dark polished wood, brass fittings, crystal chandeliers, sharply dressed waiters in pressed uniforms and an ambience that is fit for a king or a queen. Sitting in this sumptuous interior makes the coffee taste even better than it already is.
The caffès are filled with history. Caffè Fiorio was frequented by Cavour – who plotted the unification of Italy here – and writers Herman Melville, Mark Twain and Friedrich Nietzsche. The drink of choice is the bicerin* – hot chocolate with espresso and whipped cream. It’s thick, dark, dense and delicious. No wonder this place is so popular! Composer Giaccomo Puccini wrote Manon Lescaut in Caffè Al Bicerin, the namesake of the bicerin.
Turin is not only the Italian capital of coffee – Lavazza originates here – but also chocolate. Gianduiotto is the signature Torinese chocolate made of a paste of local hazelnuts, cocoa powder, cocoa butter and sugar. It seems everywhere you go, there are desserts available for every palate from exquisite pastries to the creamiest gelato I’ve ever tasted. It’s the home for a sweet tooth.
Gelaterias abound in Turin and one of my favorites is Mara dei Boschi. The flavors are artisan and organic and the crowd is always in a good mood. It’s impossible to eat gelato with a long face.
One tends to associate Italy not only with coffee, but also with its abundance of churches and basilicas. Rome seems to have one around every corner. Turin, however, has only 13, which makes coffee and its culture of discussion and connection a higher priority.
Entering one of these churches, specifically SS. Trinità, is a sublime experience. The rococo interior so lavish and ornate, so filled with drama, one expects to be served caffè and gianduiotto along with confession. And maybe an aria.
Built like a church but for another purpose entirely, the Mole Antonelliana is the tallest structure of the city at 550′, giving Turin its trademark skyline. It houses the National Cinema Museum and is the tallest museum in the world. Riding the elevator provides an amazing view up through its glass ceiling into the interior of the dome. It really is worth it and the buzz from all the coffee I’ve been drinking gives it an extra thrill.
Out on the viewing platform, the views over Turin and the alps surrounding it are stunning. Just don’t look down!
Turin is a coffee lovers’ paradise. Home to writers, intellectuals, students, artists and musicians it’s also incredibly photogenic, which is what I offer here — an inspiration for your own travels to this remarkable city.
* ‘bicerin’ in Northern Italian dialects means ‘little glass’ – the bicerin is in fact served in a glass and not in a cup (note by ed.)
Navyo is a regular contributor to this magazine
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