I could’t think of a better title for a blog, set to take us for a short visit in Italy- a country, that I consider myself lucky enough to have visited so many times and a country which I always leave, asking myself the same question all over again – ”how can I go back to my daily routine now, leaving all this colours, aromas and taste and leaving a country where people live longer, happier, eat better, love more intense.
My short affair with Turin is comparable with certain scenes from the movie ” Italian Job” big part of which was filmed in Turin, but luckily, not as dramatic as the movie.
Located in North Italy, along the Po river and surrounded by the Alps, Turin remain not as famous and not as visited as some of the others like Rome, Florence, Venice, Verona, Milan but it does definitely has it all – beautiful architecture, very rich history, beautiful cuisine, a birth place of the ‘ Lavazza’, the chocolate bar as we know it today, the vermouth, aperativo * and well known wine regions such as Barolo and Asti.
Speaking of wine, I couldn’t stop but share – wine tastings in Italy are done a bit differently then in other countries. A fact that I am able to confirm after being a regular attendant on such events in France, Spain, Portugal and even in England ( as a new comer when it comes to wine, but not foreign to the bubbly drinks). People in Italy, do love their wine and happily spent long time to explain the differences in sorts of grapes used to produce certain wines and even happier hosting a wine tasting event including an average number of appr. 12 wines to taste 😀 . For the record, in most of the other places, the average number of wines to taste is six. So, if not anything else, you will definitely leave the winery of your choice with a special sparkle and a bottle or three on the way 😉 .
And if the wine is my love after P.M hour, than coffee is my A.M. one – best serve strong, dark and coming from Italy. Known as the birth place of ”Lavazza” , the coffee scene in Turin is so historically rich and the numbers of cafes in the historical part of Turin is so high, so that even if you happen to be living in the city for a couple of months and you happen to be visiting a different one on each day, you will still not be able to visit them all. Following cafes ( Baratti&Milano, Caffè Torino, Caffè San Carlo,Caffè Mulassano, Al Bicerin), I would add in the list, not only because of the interiors, the impeccable service, the coffee self but also because because of the views to the beautiful piazzas and the facts that most of the intellectual elite in Turin was sitting at that exact cafes , enjoying that exact views from 18th and 19th century until now. Most of the cafes are located around the piazza San Carlo, near the Piazza Castello or along the river Po.
A bit less known fact for a city in Italy, but in the past, coffee was the second love for the local inhabitants while, the first one was – chocolate. Chocolate is so popular and loved in the city of Turin, so that every autumn there is a chocolate festival held in the city. The love and attraction to chocolate date back somewhere in the 16th century and it was not until the 18th century when a bright person did mix both- coffee and chocolate, arrange it with some cream and so the famous ‘ Bicerin’ drink was born. Very rich and creamy – a perfect for a colder afternoon during most months of the year. There are a lot of coffee shops offering the drink in their menu, but best served and most authentic one, you will find in the ‘Al Bicerin‘ coffee shop serving the drink from the 1763 until now.
Some people would link the city of Turin with the headquarters of ‘Fiat’ or as a host of the Winter Olympics in 2006, but there is one sight that deserve to be visited along with the many others. It is not the best or most beautiful cathedral in the city or in Italy, but there is one particular relic make the visit worth of it – the Holy Shroud – a length of linen cloth believe to have kept an imprint of the face of Jesus Christ. The ” Shroud” is kept under a laminated bulletproof glass and the entrance to the cathedral of Turin is free.
For centuries the heart of the Kingdom of Savoy , Turin was the theater of Italian unification and was, initially chosen for the First Capital of the Kingdom of Italy in 1861. The love of the Royals from the ‘House of Savoy’ to art and culture reflects the present days city look. During the time of their most powerful reign between – 17th to 19th century, most of the royal palaces, residences, art galleries and even theaters were built and later, a lot of them added to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. One of my favorite stories, that I heard, was that King Vittorio Emanuele I., didn’t like to get wet from the rain, so he ordered the construction of a record number of arcades to be built, many of which are interconnected today.
Thanks to him, we are all admiring the unique design and the beautifully carved ornaments in each of them while remaining well protected from the rain :-).
Speaking of the Italian Unification period in 19th century, the construction of one of the symbols of the city the ‘ Mole of Antonelliana’ began at that time. The tower raises more then 160m high and under the roof of it, there is the spectacular National Cinema Museum tracing the history of the seventh art from its early beginnings until today. Personally, I did spent one of the nicest and most entertaining afternoons in the museum after visiting the panoramic terrace, admiring Turin from above.
If you love Egypt and the Egyptian ancient history and anything related to it, the biggest Egyptian museum outside of Egypt is located in Turin too. I decided to pass on it, for the reason ,that I used to live in Egypt for over an year and I did visited all major ancient sites in it, including the museum in Cairo. But if you haven’t been and you happen to be in Turin, why not paying a visit to that one too?
”Villa della Regina” – an absolute favorite of mine. With an affinity to palaces and royal residences, most probably I will choose one over a cathedral or a monastery for example. Located not far from the historical center, the villa was originally built for the ultimate escape of the royals from the city. It is gorgeous, well preserved with a private vineyard, surround by royal gardens, a very rich art and painting collection in and gorgeous views from the many balconies… Best of all -it felt like almost a private visit due to the low number of visitors even in end of the summer season. I did enjoy listening to the passionate talks of the people looking after the villa, about all events and gathering happening in the villa, the life of the royals away of the palaces.. Legend has it that even Napoleon used to stay in the villa during his time in Turin at the beginning of the 19th century. He did love Turin too.
Writing this last lines from the blog, I am just wondering did I managed to cover even half of the seeing and done? Of course not, but I like to always keep something for the next time 😉
- Aperativo – a well known and very beloved Italian tradition dating back to the Ancient Roman times. Back then, it used to be called ‘ gustatio’ and it was set for the richest Roman society. The principle was the same – people gathering before a major event or dinner, consuming wine and light food. The major drink served back then, it was ‘ mulsum’ – a honey wine accompany with small bites. Only after the vermouth was introduced to the public in the end of the 18th century, the modern aperativo was born in no place else, but in Turin.