Travel diary: a delicacy tour of TORINO

Turin is my city!, An elegant and fascinating capital of the Baroque architecture as well as the first capital of Italy. It is a pleasure to stroll around the city centre anytime, anywhere, however my very good friend Federica Montaldi, architect and local professional Guide, found her own way to entertain her guests with this pleasant stroll in the “roman squared area” of the old town. Thus let’s follow Federica along this extraordinary path in search of some hidden gems and tasty local delicacies.

If you want to discover a different Turin, you should definitely take a “nose-up” stroll in the area crossed by the longest pedestrian street in town: Via Garibaldi.

From Piazza Castello, which is the actual “heart” of the old town, leave behind you the refined area of the city, linked House of Savoy, the former Italian Royal family, and enter a city district that still speaks an old fashion language.

Start walking along Via Pietro Micca, an elegant street designed in the 19th century, nicknamed the “Diagonal” since then. (it is, in fact, the only street of the old town designed on a slanting axe), and reach the covered walkway of Palazzo Bellia, a fascinating residential palace built at the end of the 19th century displaying early signs of the local liberty style, also known as art-nouveau.  

At Via Pietro Micca number 6 you’ll be in front of Prochet, an historic antique shop, listed among the official suppliers of the Royal Family. Once inside, Mrs. Rosanna Romanisio, the owner, together with her daughter or any member of the staff, will guide you into a world of porcelains, decorative glasses and silverware. The place also hides a little curiosity: look with a sharp eye at the capitals of the inner columns. You will catch sight of stuccoes depicting the zodiac… Turin is the city of magic, thus, for a strange coincidence, those at the entrance are also the zodiac signs of the 2 owners!

Handmade Paper goods by Bottega Fagnola – Photo Courtesy of Bottega Fagnola

A bit further, on your left you’ll see the church of St. Thomas: take a look inside to see the altar named after a Franciscan Friar named Pasquale Baylon, now called “Saint Baylon” the patron of cooks and pastry chefs. Along Via San Tommaso, just after a little newsmagazines stand, at n. 12, you’ll see another delicacy store called Latteria Bera. Its old sign says “latte, burro, uova” (milk, butter and eggs) but the place is not just for dairy products but for a full set of traditional local products sold in an old fashion ambience.

Joint to Latteria Bera another historic shop: Bottega Fagnola, a handcraft workshop for bookbinding, handmade paper goods and antique books restoration established in 1955.

Move on a bit further to find the little coffee shop where Luigi Lavazza started his coffee blending and roasting activity, which easily became the very first step towards the world-wide success of this Italian excellence, now a multinational company, still family run.  

Umbertino: the King’s delicacy

Take a left at the crossroad with via Monte di Pietà. At number 22, you’ll find a place to allow yourself a relaxing coffee break: the Venier pastry shop. Step inside and smell the perfume of recently baked delicacies, have an expresso coffee and allow yourself a “umbertino” a little pastry created by the King himself as well as the special treat of the house: an incredibly tasty mix of chocolate and hazelnut.

Take a turn to via dei Mercanti and look up to see several banners depicting a woman with a wide long ‘700s skirt and the motto: Contrada dei Guardinfanti” (the street of the farthingales) which is the old name of this area of Torino, made of narrow alleys where you can still feel the presence of  old crafts.  

At n. 9 you’ll bump into Casa Romagnano, one of the very few reminescence of the middle ages displaying old windows made of facing bricks. Unfortunately most of the medieval heritage was demolished during the city renovation of the 16th and 17th century.

L’Estampe, antique and art gallery – Photo Courtesy of l’Estampe

Keep walking along Via dei Mercanti to find, at number 3G the glasses of a unique antique and art gallery, called ’L’Estampe’. Since 1994 this gallery supplies prints, drawings, water colour paintings, XXth century paintings as well as billboards of the most iconic commercial posters of the past century. Don’t be shy and step inside, even if you don’t want to purchase anything, you’ll feel you’ve just entered a room of wonders while the owner, Mr. Emanuele Cardellino, will be happy to lead you into his world of magic.  

At the crossroad with Via Garibaldi, keep on walking until Piazza Palazzo di Città  an elegant 18th century  square, home of the City hall since the middle ages, formerly known as Piazza delle Erbe (the market of the greens) named after the vegetable market which was used to be held here at that time. You still have the chance to experience the atmosphere of the market when an organic food market is held here the first Sunday of each month.

Now, take Via Milano and you’ll see from a distance Piazza della Repubblica (Republic Square) home of a daily market named “Porta Palazzo”, listed among the biggest open air markets in Europe.

The lively market of Porta Palazzo – Turin

At the crossroad with Via San Domenico, you’ll see a church with a facing bricks facade, the only medieval church left in town, home of the city’s Holy Inquisition court. Inside there is a “Grace Chapel” decorated with amazing frescoes dating back to the 13th century.

Take a left here and proceed along Via San Domenico, to find, at n. 11. The MAO (museum of far-east cultures) housed within the context of a 17th century noble palace called Palazzo Mazzonis. If you are fond of such cultures, the museum is definitely worth a visit. If you are not, the palace itself it deserves a peep look.  

Sweet tarte – Photo courtesy of Olsen

Tale a left and walk along Via Sant’Agostino. At n. 4/b there’s another opportunity for a local delicacy: Olsen. The place is known for its cakes, both savoury and sweet ones. The owners, Cinzia and Antonio, will pleasantly welcome you in their family ambience for a quick snack or a full freshly made meal. If you are mad about chocolate, don’t miss their superb Sachertorte!!  

Federica Montaldi – Author of this article and local Guide in Turin

You have now completed your unusual walk around Turin. Keep your eyes and your stomach filled with delicacies and remember that Turin is a city to savour little by little rather than simply visit. With a professional local Guide it’s even better if you want to discover hidden treasures and tasty delicacies”.

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