Italy is located in the northwest, just behind the French border. Piedmont is one of the country’s most important industrial and economic areas. It also has beautiful natural resources in its mountains and lakes. This beautiful and fascinating corner of Italy has been overlooked by tourists who have taken over Rome, Florence, and Venice. This is about to change.
Turin is the capital and hosts this month’s 20th Winter Olympic Games (February 10-26 2006). Turin, home to over 862,000 people, is simultaneously charming and modern, regal, bohemian and elegant, raw and beautiful, glorious, passionate and regal.
Turin won’t be forgotten with close to 2 million visitors expected during the Olympics. Forget the baroque architecture from the Savoy family dynasty of the 13th century, which ruled the city up until 1536 when it became French-occupied. Don’t forget about the industrial powerhouse that is Italy’s automobile industry. Also, don’t forget about the incredible art collections and the legendary nightlife. What are the best places to eat for all these people?
It’s not a common occurrence for Italians to miss a great meal. Turin is no exception. There are so many options for bread, pastas, cheeses, meats, fish, and wines to choose from that it can be overwhelming. Here is some advice. You can taste almost anything. However, I find the best food in Turin to include truffles, Barolo wine, and chocolate.
The most well-known gastronomic celebrity in Turin is the truffle (tartufo). This fungus grows below the ground, among the roots of hardwood trees. The mild taste of the black truffle is a result of cooking. However, the white truffle, which is the royal cousin of the black truffle, has a strong, pungent flavor that can withstand pasta, risotto, and any other cut meat. The most valuable white truffles in Italy are only available in limited areas, and they can be found in late autumn. They are extremely expensive and come only from Turin.
The secret of the truffle collection is hidden in mystery and stealth. Dogs of special breed are trained to find the treasure and return it to their owners. The prize is carefully removed from the ground, wrapped in linen handkerchiefs and taken to the local markets. They are sold in small stalls far from the hustle and bustle of other merchants who sell more common products. White truffles are 10 times more expensive than black truffles and their prices routinely exceed US$ 1000 per pound.
Your waiter will then shave thin slices of wafer-thin bread onto your meal, often hours later. The price will depend on how many shavings you use. Prices can vary greatly depending on the number of shavings used. Every euro is well spent on this rich, aromatic, and smoky delight.
Barolo is a rich and heady wine that will wash down all your truffles. Barolo is made from the best nebiolo grapes in the region. Nebbiolo comes from the Italian word “nebbia”, which means fog. Grapes are harvested in October when a dense fog settles on the Barolo region, where Nebbioli flourish.
Turin’s amazing architecture is best illustrated by the Madama Palace on Piazza Castello. It includes a Roman doorway and a medieval castle, as well as a stunning Baroque facade.
Barolo must be aged for at least three years, but it can last up to eight years before being sold. Barolo wines that are ranked among the best in Italy regularly win international awards. A good bottle of Barolo wine will cost you between US$ 50 and US$ 75 in a typical Turin restaurant. Some labels can cost well above US$ 100.
It is difficult to imagine a better dessert than a combination of local chocolate and fresh-pulled coffee. Turin’s love affair with chocolate goes back to the 16th century, when Emmanuel Philbert, the ruler of Savoy, celebrated victory over France with a cup of hot chocolate.
In the middle of the 1700s, Turin’s gentry, which included politicians, artists, and nobles, met in the elegant atmosphere of fine cafes. They enjoyed bicerin, a mixture of hot chocolate, espresso, and whipped cream. It is named after the small, round glass in which it is served.
Gianduja is the modern star of Turin’s chocolate industry. It is a smooth delight made of hazelnuts and chocolate. There are many small shops that sell chocolate in the city, of all sizes and varieties.
Turin is easy to fall for. Turin’s beautiful architecture and an incredible array of museums will delight your intellectual curiosity. The bohemian bar scene and the music scene will satisfy your visceral needs. The already lively atmosphere of the city will be enhanced by the 2006 Winter Olympic Games. Everyone will be delighted by the three culinary stars: chocolate, Barolo wine, and truffles.