We all know of the charms of Milan, Rome, and Florence – the metropolitan oases which boast world-renowned shopping streets, restaurants, and museums. But less than 3 hours away from Lausanne is an Italian city that often gets overlooked. Known to most as the former headquarters of Fiat, Turin has so much more to offer in the food and culture scene than we know. There’s a reason, after all, it was Italy’s first capital city.
Nestled just at the foot of the Italian Alps, Turin’s elegance and charm is reflected in the intricate baroque architecture, its stunning piazze, and some of the best wines in the world. It’s a city which has been described as the “Paris of Italy”, yet it’s unfussy, unforced—here, there is no one to perform for, only places to truly discover its well-worn sophistication. Ready to discover the Piedmont capital? With these addresses in mind, you won’t regret it.
Where to stay in Turin
This is the only downside of such an overlooked city – the hotels are limited. But we stayed and can highly recommend the Turin Palace Hotel. For less than 150 € a night (for 2 people) you can stay in a historic hotel, dated of course but in a charming way. The service is exceptional, the location central, and the breakfast generous.
Where to eat in Turin
We had arrived well past 21h for our dinner here (after our drive which was delayed due to snow) with two tired and hungry kids, and the host didn’t even blink an eye as he sat us and brought bread and the wine list straight away. When in the Piedmont region you must order Barolo and when in season (autumn) indulging in truffles is a no-brainer. Here at Le Vitel Etonné, the kids had agnolotti -a Piedmontese ravioli stuffed with roasted meat in a savory broth. I ordered the white truffle pasta – a gorgeously cooked fresh tajarin pasta with freshly shaved with white truffle from the region. Simple yet so decadent. Also, the vitello tonnato (another Piedmont specialty) is a must-try here–many claim this is the best in the city. If you can, ask to sit in the downstairs cellar–there’s nothing quite like sipping on a Barolo while being surrounded by the bottles in a cozy atmosphere.
Located in the historic yet trendy Roman quarter is Tre Galli – the younger more contemporary sister restaurant of Tre Galline. It reminded us of Derrière in Paris, with mismatched furniture, funky décor, and different dining rooms and corners exuding different personalities throughout the restaurant. The energy is contagious here, and the menu creative–reinterpreting Piedmont classics. Just don’t ask for ketchup for your kids as they’ll claim they “don’t do ketchup here” (but then place it on your table a few minutes later ;)).
Probably one of our top ten dining experiences…ever. The taxi dropped us off and we couldn’t figure out where this iconic restaurant’s entrance was. Until we saw a small black cat drawn into the wooden door, curtains covering the windows, and a discrete doorbell that simply stated ‘Gatto Nero’. We pushed the button and entered a universe of passion and pride – servers dressed in white coats, a gorgeous mid-century style of décor—you can tell that this was once the place to be. And we’d argue it still is, just keep it between us, ok?
We ordered the lunch time tasting menu that consisted of mouth-watering parsley and garlic anchovies on toast, citrusy octopus, paccheri with slow-cooked ragù and aubergine parmigiana. It was generous, it was delicious, and we reveled in the slow and steady service – no one was rushing us. We played UNO with our kids and the servers came over to take a turn, one proclaiming he was Italy’s reigning UNO champion with a wink. Our daughter drew a black cat, content and eating a bowl of pasta, and the owner asked her to sign it and promised to add it to their gallery for our next visit. We hope it will be soon.
It doesn’t matter that it’s become a larger global franchise – Eataly knows what it’s doing, and it does it well. If you’ve driven to Turin, we recommend making this a stop on your way back (read: stock up on some groceries and specialties) and eat lunch at one of their several restaurants. We grabbed pasta and wine, some sauces, cheese, dried meats and even a few tools for the kitchen. There’s a large parking lot that’s quite cheap, and another huge supermarket next door.
Where to drink in Turin
In the Piazza San Carlo, you’ll find a vintage neon Martini sign that should not be ignored. Walk inside the Caffè Torino and experience the grandiosity of it all. A huge wooden bar, painted murals, and ornate mirrors beckon you to kick back and order a negroni or Spritz and be spoiled by the accompaniments of a super generous aperitivo. You may not even need to eat dinner after this one.
If you’re looking for aperitivo, come to San Carlo – a Turin institution inaugurated in 1822 it’s a bit tired (and the service is unpredictable) but it’s one to have on the list. Similar to Caffe Torino with its chandeliers, marble floors and ornate mirrors, it gives off an air of luxury but the 8€ cocktails and generous aperitivo make it easily accessible.
If you wish to take a detour from the old school grand Art Nouveau décor, and mosey over to something a bit more…sexy…head to Bar Cavour, rated one of the World’s 50 Best. A cocktail lounge set on the top floor of Del Cambio’s townhouse, it’s slick with low-lighting and refined décor. Come for an aperitivo or after dinner cocktail, or settle in a stay awhile ordering off of their innovative menu.