Welcome to Turin
Turin is often overlooked in the blaze of cultural light generated by Rome, Florence and Venice. But this more subtly successful city has its own talents- since its Roman origins, Turin has been a cauldron of creativity and innovation, attracting scientists, writers and artists with its modern outlook and ancient buildings. Turin is also legendary for being the most haunted city in Italy- some believe its foundations were built over the mouth to the gates of hell, and ghosts and myths throng its palaces and arcades. Legend claims that the city has two souls- one linked to white magic, and one to black.
Nowadays, Baroque buildings, art galleries and museums sit alongside glossy designer shops, Art Nouveau mansions oversee thriving markets and the citizens of Turin go about their business with the quiet confidence of those who never want to be elsewhere. The Alps watch over Turin, but closer still are green hills, parks and gardens- it is one of Italy’s greenest cities and the Piedmont region is Italy’s second largest wine producer. Perhaps that’s why nightlife is so important here- the aperitivo- the free early evening buffet- was invented here, along with the breadstick. It’s also the birthplace of Italian cinema. If the devil does have designs on Turin, so far, he seems to be doing an excellent job.
Turin is full of restaurants, and, unlike certain areas of the more tourism-driven Italian cities, prices are very reasonable.
For an exceptional Italian meal, try La Gola, near the Porta Susa station. A family business, the chef has worked with legendary French chef Paul Bocuse and the wine is hand-picked by the owner from small, independent vineyards. Daily specials focus on regional flavours and the prices are more than reasonable for the quality. (Corso Matteotti 59, 011 5111012). Also recommended are
Osteria Antiche Sere, full of old-fashioned charm, which offers well-cooked, unpretentious food- book in advance as it gets busy. (Via Cenischia 9, 10139, 011 385 4347). For a more glamorous evening out, go to Prima dal 1979 Moreno, which offers a high-quality form of Italian tapas.
(Corso Unione Sovietica 244, 011 3179191)
From Spring to Autumn, the Murazzi- a promenade by the River Po which runs through Turin- becomes the fulcrum of the city’s nightlife- bars and clubs are thronged with drinkers and dancers, so head to this area and take your pick. Alterntively, try Caffe Mulassano- a tiny, wood-panelled antiquity, with marble tables and penguin-suited waiters, it’s often claimed to have the best espresso in Italy. (Piazza Castello 9 10123, 011 547 990). Or try Caffé Al Bicerin, (Piazza della Consolata 5,) which in the 18th century invented the bicerin - a blend of espresso, hot chocolate and cream, later a favourite of Alexandre Dumas. Wood-lined, candlelit and tiny, the café still serves its famous creation. The charming Caffe Roberto, too, is a century old, and offers a fabulous aperitivo, the free buffet that is a Turin speciality. (Via Po, 5 10124,
01 839 0214)