In September we went on a little road trip from Zurich to Southern France and back again. To split the distance into shorter bits – as we like to do – we decided to do a little stop in Turin.
We spent approximately 48 hours in Turin and fell in love with the city’s unique appeal. It might be comparable to Milan, and some say it’s the Italian version of Vienna. But to me, its vibe was something different altogether. The city combines Italian “grandezza” in the city center with an old industrial charm on the outskirts. As the capital of Piedmont, it also is home to one of the best cuisines in Italy.
Being a tourist Turin was a pleasant surprise. The city is super walkable. If your legs get tired, public transport is relatively easy to understand. During the day the streets were never too crowded, and tourists only culminated at a handful of hotspots.
Where We Stayed in Turin
The only downside to Turin being a non-touristy place is the city’s lack of nice hotels. Before going there, we spent hours on Booking.com to find a charming and affordable hotel. Unfortunately, most of the places belong to larger chains, that cater to congress visitors and subsequently often lack in coziness and character.
We eventually chose the hotel located in the old Fiat factory, the NH Lingotto Congress. The rooms and facilities were okay for a congress hotel. But, it won us over with its industrial heritage – the old fiat test track and a small art gallery on the roof that you both can visit free of charge when you are a guest of the hotel.
While the hotel is not exactly in the city center, there is a subway in front of the hotel that goes directly into town. So, getting from and to the hotel is very convenient.
Some Culinary Highlights
As I mentioned earlier, food in Turin is top notch and its abundance of restaurants, bars and cafes are a testament to the Italian dolce vita. There are many local specialties and wines to try. Clearly, within two days we could only visit a couple of places but here are some recommendations, all tested by yours truly. For a more detailed view on culinary culture in Turin, I recommend this article in CN Traveller.
Dinner at Tre Galli
On our first night in Turin we headed out to Tre Galli, a laid-back restaurant tucked away in the alleys of the old town. Inside the interior of the restaurant extends over two floors but is not that spacious. With selected vintage furniture and old advertising signs it has a super cozy vibe. In summer, however, the indoor tables are deserted, while on the outside tables and chairs pour into the street, offering great views on all the people strolling by.
Even better than the location was the food. As a starter, I had some fresh burrata with the most delicious coeur-de-boeuf tomato. The boyfriend enjoyed some Vitello Tonnato – a dish typical for the Piedmont region. As you do in Italy, we both had pasta as a first course. I tried the spaghetti with truffle pesto while D. went for another specialty from Turin, agnolotti with gravy sauce. As a main, we both picked Rump Steak with potatoes and ash virgin olive oil.
From the extensive wine list at Tre Galli, we chose a delicious Nebbilio, followed by a glass of Passito from Pantelleria for the desert.
Coffee and Tramezzini at Caffè Mulassano
Caffè Mulassano has been a Turin institution since 1907. It was also the place where – according to the legend, the Italian version of the sandwich, the Tramezzini were invented. First and foremost it is a beautiful, tiny and very old café in the Centro Storico. The decoration is of pure opulence, with lots of gold, wood carvings, and mirrors, all of this culminating in a bar counter made of Piedmontese marble.
We were quite surprised to find this gem of a café empty when we headed there for in the afternoon of our second day in Turin. In Rome or Milan, tourist would crowd a place like this, waving their cameras. Here in Turin, there was only another tourist couple and some locals dipping in and out of the café to have a quick espresso by the bar. To take in the atmosphere and to give our legs a little break we decided to take a seat in a nook by the window and ordered some coffee, water, and two Tramezzini.
Beers Under The Trees At PEPE
Somewhat by accident, we came across a small modern bar and restaurant called PEPE opposite of Piazza Maria Teresa. The tables under the trees in the lovely piazza looked so inviting that we decided to sit down have some cold beers in the sun.
Here we were definitely among the locals. An elderly couple sat down a few tables behind us. He lovingly guided her to her seat and ordered some cold lemonade. At the next table, some students had a work meeting, while on the piazza itself people were walking their dogs, greeting each other as if they came here every day.
It was at this bar that I started to imagine life in Turin. Looking at the treetops swaying in the breeze, the whitewashed houses against the blue skies and the locals out and about, I was pretty sure that yes, this must be a very liveable city.
Drinks at Caffe Torino
If Torino has one signature drink, it’s the Torino-Milano – made of Red Vermouth and Campari. But as anything with Red Vermouth is dear to the heart of the people of Turin, you will also find very decent Negroni and other great drinks.
One of the most popular places for an Aperitif is Caffe Torino, located on the beautiful Piazza San Carlo. Make sure to be seated by one of the waiters. Or they will ignore you for the rest of your stay.
Just like the Caffè Mulassano, this place that opened in 1903, has a beautiful interior. But on it was a sunny day in September, so we decided to have our Aperitivo outside on the beautiful Piazza San Carlo. As it’s custom in Italy, alongside the drinks, a great spread of snacks arrived. Again we indulged in people watching while sipping first one, then two Torino-Milano.
Some Things We Saw in Turin
We did not only eat and drink but also did a lot of walking and saw a lot of Turin. As there are virtually no proper travel guides dedicated to the city itself, I based most of our explorations on some Instagram and Pinterest research I did beforehand. While I don’t feel up to the task of compiling a comprehensive list of the sights of Turin after spending two days in the city, here are some impressions from our walks about town.