1. Breakfast is a grand affair
Italy’s first capital, and the seat of the royal House of Savoy for centuries, Turin’s illustrious legacy lingers on in its array of sumptuous nineteenth-century cafés.
Several grace the grand central square, Piazza San Carlo. Start your day amid acres of gilded mirrors and plush red velvet of Caffè San Carlo, where coffee – served by a bow-tied barista oozing expertise – and a croissant savoured at the marble bar will set you back little more than €2.
Festooning the counters and cabinets of Turin’s grande-dame cafés are mounds of tiny pasticcini (pastries), delicate morsels of sweet treats originally designed for aristocratic appetites. They come in dozens of varieties, from crumbly baci di dama (ladies’ kisses) to bignole, mini choux buns filled with cream.
There’s a fine selection at Caffè Torino, another of Piazza San Carlo’s august fin-de-siècle institutions, and don’t miss Caffè Mulassano on nearby Piazza Castello. With its coffered leather ceiling and a marble-and-bronze water fountain, this diminutive, three-tabled spot is a fantasy of Art Nouveau.
2. The world's first ever choc ice was made here
Work off your breakfast with a visit to the brace of fine museums east of Piazza San Carlo: the beautifully restored Museo Nazionale del Risorgimento Italiano, which preserves Italy’s first parliament chamber, and, more impressive still, a wander among the pharaohs at the atmospheric Museo del Egizio.
For generations of schoolchildren, the real highlight is a stop between the two at the unassuming Pepino gelateria for a pinguino – the world’s first choc ice, patented in 1939. Still family-owned, and run by the inventor’s great-grandson, the dapper, youthful Edoardo Cavignano, Pepino focuses on quality over range, with just six flavours of artisanal gelati. For an unusual floral twist, try the violetta.
Caffè Pepino in Turin, Italy © Stefano Chiacchiarini/Shutterstock
3. It's the perfect place to fill up on traditional Piemontese cuisine
Heavy on butter and cream, traditional Piemontese cuisine is as rich as the region’s heritage, and meals are invariably generous, four-course affairs.
Gloriously garlicky bagna caôda is a mainstay, a salty and addictive warm dip of anchovies, oil, milk, butter and cream that blends hearty mountain cooking with the lighter influences of the Mediterranean.
Traditionally the centrepiece of a meal, kept warm over a hot flame and served with bread, crudités or roasted veg, bagna caôda is now often served as an antipasto, along with other local staples such fonduta di Raschera (fondue with tangy Raschera cheese) and vitello con tonnato (thin slices of veal in tuna sauce).
Tucked into a corner of Piazza Vittoria Veneto, one of the biggest arcaded squares in Europe, intimate Porto di Savona is one of the best choices for Piemontese cuisine at unpretentious prices. Go hungry and don’t skip the primi (invariably pasta) – both the agnolotti al sugo de arrosto (pasta squares stuffed with roast pork and veal) and tajarin al Castelmagno (tagliatelle with crumbly cheese) are filling but superb.
4. You can eat your way around Eataly
Real foodies could easily lose half a day browsing and grazing around the gourmet paradise of Eataly, a few metro stops south of the centre in the former industrial quarter of Lingotto. Housed in a converted vermouth factory, this vast food emporium is a fabulous showcase for the country’s best produce, with entire rooms devoted to regional cheeses, cured meats, an agrigelateria and plenty more.
There are ten restaurants on site, and the basement is devoted almost entirely to booze. Hopheads can acquaint themselves with the burgeoning Italian craft beer scene at the birreria, as well as a spectacular array of wine.
Eataly has close links with the global Slow Food movement, centred in Piemonte, and the city hosts the world’s largest gastronomy festival, the biennial Terra Madre Salone del Gusto, which celebrated its twentieth anniversary in 2016.
While you’re here, call into Fiat’s former headquarters, now remodelled by Renzo Piano as the Lingotto Centre. The Fiat-owning Agnelli dynasty’s priceless collection of artworks is displayed in a serene glass gallery suspended above the former factory building, with sweeping views across to the mountains.