I have been waiting to go to Torino.
Waiting for what, I’m not sure.
I was biding my time because a 4 hour train ride is honestly a teensy bit long. I wanted a reason to confine myself to Tren Italia for that long.
Finally, a half-baked plan to visit Ivrea, also in Piemonte, offered the perfect chance.
We arrived near midnight on a Friday and put off any exploration until the next day.
We woke to cloudy February skies and sunny retro trams.
With drizzle threatening to turn into something more, I was grateful for the covered archways throughout the city.
I stumbled into Caffè Rossacci (Via dell’Arsenale, 35) and was quickly laughing into my cappuccino while munching on an amazing cornetto alla crema di pistacchio. It was probably the happiest coffee bar I have ever encountered in Italy, and it set the right tone for the day.
Our trip was quickly executed and we arrived without a long list of MUST SEEs and TO DOs. We simply wanted to experience the city with what little time we had before continuing on to the Orange Battle in Ivrea.
Following long arcades at random, we serendipitously stumbled upon Porta Palazzo.
The food stalls in this busy mercato nearly overlap, leaving cramped passageways to navigate while bargaining for produce.
The city offers an elegant backdrop for the chaos of the Saturday morning market.
I eyed the artichokes longingly, but knew that I didn’t need “10 for €1” while on the road, so we continued on towards chocolate.
A girl cannot live on cappuccini alone, so I wanted my coffee with cream and chocolate from Caffè al Bicerin (Piazza della Consolata, 5).
The small, wood-paneled cafe was founded in 1763. The two rows of marble tables and crushed velvet benches were continuously full.
The cafe claims to have invented the eponymous drink- the bicerin.
The drink is layered: espresso, chocolate, cream.
You are instructed not to mix it when it arrives. As you sip, first comes the cool fior di latte cream, then the sharp coffee, then finally heavy and sweet chocolate.
I loved it but paid well for this glorified dessert in a glass: about €6.
Of course, I couldn’t resist the chocolate ‘toast’ once I saw it on the menu. Melted, spreadable chocolate inside a grilled cheese sandwich?
Sign. Me. Up.
The chocolate grilled cheese idea is fantastic for lovers of savory-sweet. However, the execution left me wanting more cheese and more chocolate. I left the second half unfinished, but the order was a gamble that I am glad I took.
We spent the early afternoon working off the chocolate, wandering the porticos and piazze of Turin.
I was surprised by how different it felt from Rome.
The architecture felt northern, which I should have expected, but I didn’t anticipate that the distinction between Rome – Torino would be so vast.
We could turn a corner and find a modern sculpture, or a Fascist monument, or a Baroque palace.
It was hard to guess what would be next.
Eventually, we found ourselves back at central Palazzo Chiablese (Piazza S. Giovanni, 2).
Once part of the Royal Palace of Turin, it is currently hosting an excellent Matisse exhibit through 15 May 2016.
Running pretty much exclusively on sugar and caffeine to take in all this art and architecture, we booked a table at Scannabue (Largo Saluzzo, 25/H).
The food was fine, but the service was laughably bad.
My primo arrived 15 minutes AFTER Jimmy’s secondo.
An antipasto came in the middle of it all, but it was the antipasto ordered by the neighboring table, not the one we had selected for ourselves. And the bill? A mess.
So we tried to console ourselves with gelato but Gelateria Alberto Marchetti (Corso Vittorio Emanuele II 24bis), was closed for renovations.
At least we were able to sit down and reflect on the day over craft beers at Open Baladin (Piazzale Valdo Fusi).
A very full 24 hours in Torino was our first experience with the city, but won’t be the last.
Torino, non sta mai fermo – Turin, always on the move.
I’ll be back to see what the city is up to next.
Ready to go? Here are the best hotels in Torino.