Author Tom Mueller Photography Andrea Pistolesi
DAY ONE / You awake in Le Méridien Turin Art + Tech, the only five-star hostelry in town and a symbol of Turin’s creative resilience. Celebrity architect Renzo Piano recently made this former car factory, the birthplace of Fiat, into a rarity among contemporary living spaces: an environment that is both visually arresting and welcomingly warm.
Save the pleasures of breakfast in the second-floor café for another morning and catch a cab to Piazza Castello in the heart of town. Tucked beneath the porticoes is Caffè Mulassano, the ideal introduction to Turin’s highly evolved café culture and a study in the art nouveau style. Order a cappuccino every bit as densely frothy as the gilt-wood and marble décor, accompanied by a selection of baci di dama, candied chestnuts and other bite-size confections displayed under bell jars beside the bar. Remember that Turin’s magnificent cafés have always been a central part of the town’s social, artistic, and political life (the royal Savoia family once took its tea in the Mulassano), so regular doses of dark coffee and sublime sweets are de rigueur.
Having fortified your inner traveler, visit the Museo Egizio, in nearby Piazza Carignano, the largest collection of Egyptian antiquities outside Cairo. While the mummies and granite statues of the fierce lion-headed goddess Sachmis are impressive, it’s the smaller artifacts, such as papyrus love letters, bridal trousseaus, and elegantly woven reed sandals, that make the museum memorable and give a better sense of daily life under the pharaohs than the Louvre or the Met.
Once you’ve satisfied the spirit, indulge the flesh with a stroll down Via Roma, Turin’s premier shopping street, which runs due south from Piazza Castello to the Porta Nuova train station. This broad avenue is lined with arcades on both sides (Turin has more than 18 kilometers of these covered walkways). Here you can shop for some of the city’s finest food, particularly around Piazza San Carlo. Turin has been Italy’s chocolate headquarters for three centuries, and the Confetteria Stratta is among the best, beloved of the torinesi for its gianduiotti (hazelnut chocolates) and boxed assortments. Around the corner are the no-less-ethereal pleasures of Steffanone, probably Turin’s top delicatessen, where the friendly and knowledgeable staff will induct you into the mysteries of balsamic vinegar, fruit mustards, and rare Piedmont cheeses from nearby mountain farms, including Montébore, layered like a Renaissance wedding cake.
All this food-shopping has made you hungry, so nip across to La Badessa, in nearby Piazza Carlo Emanuele II, where the house specialties are based on ancient recipes from convents throughout Piedmont. For an intellectual palate-cleanser, catch a cab to the GAM (Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea), a fast-growing collection that showcases the town’s active contemporary art scene.
Next up is Il Posto (“the Place”), which is the place for the time-honored Turin ritual of the aperitivo, a pre-dinner drink taken with tapas-style morsels. Go easy on the finger-food, however, because tonight you’ll dine at the Ristorante del Cambio, celebrated not only for its sumptuous dishes and décor, but also for illustrious past patrons like Count Camillo Cavour, who orchestrated the unification of Italy beneath Cambio’s crystal chandeliers. Complete the evening with a top-class opera or ballet at the lavish Teatro Regio, a focal point of Turin’s thriving music scene.
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