Turin has an amazing cafe culture, unlike any other city of Italy. As we walked around the city, these beautiful, historical cafes tempted us to stop and and imagine we were from a different era, one where intellectuals, philosophers, poets and artists would meet and spend time discussing the important issues of the day.
It all started at Caffé Al Bicerin , the oldest cafe in Turin, which opened in 1763. Frequented by Cavour, Dumas and Puccini, Al Bicerin quickly became popular with the aristocracy. It’s position opposite the Sanctuario della Consolata meant that it was popular as place for a quick pick me up after attending Holy Communion.
Turin’s famous coffee based drink, the bicerin, was invented here. Expresso is poured into a glass and topped with a layer of rich hot chocolate and cream. Drinking through the different layers, the taste melts into one.
Al Bicerin is a little further out along Via Garibaldi but it is certainly worth a visit to see the small wood panelled room where it all started.
Our interest was piqued, so we headed towards Piazza San Carlo, one of Turins’ most beautiful squares. It is also known as the drawing room of Turin. At the end of the square are the two churches of Santa Christina and San Carlo.
Beautiful arched porticos surround the square and it is here, amongst the many elegant shops, that we came across some of the more famous cafes.
Caffé Torino was opened in 1903 but moved here in the 1930′s during the rebuilding of the main shopping street, Via Roma. In a room where mirrors reflect the chandeliers hanging from the ceiling and historical quotes adorn the walls, the cakes and pastries take second place.
Like many of the cafes, Caffé Torino is very popular at aperitivo time. From 5.30- 6pm, the price of drinks includes nibbles from the often, over laden buffet bar.
Sitting at one of their outdoor tables, with the the red neon Martini sign flashing above, we enjoy watching the world go by whilst sipping Turin’s famous aperitif, the negroni- a mix of martini rosso, campari and gin.
Confetteria Pasticceria Fratelli Stratta is one of the most famous sweet shops in Turin and Italy. They do not use preservatives in their products, so everything made here is beautifully fresh. The window displays are stunning. With 2011 being the 150th anniversary of the Unification, the Italian colours were everywhere including Stratta’s windows.
We continue walking into Piazza Castello where I find my favourite cafe, Caffé Mulassano.It reminds me of a gentlemen’s club, with its carved wooden interiors and dark colours. Not being a coffee drinker, I can’t vouch for the coffee but I’m told it has the best expresso in town.
But I keep going back to Guido Gobino a chocolate shop with the reputation as the best chocolate producer in town. I just loved the way they present their bicerins. Did you see the earlier postcard with the stunning looking summer bicerin served in a test tube.
Whatever you do, don’t leave before buying some of their superb chocolates. It takes a simple chocolate sauce to another level!
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