‘Finalmente,’ said Fabio when I told him I’d booked a trip to Turin. My lovely Italian teacher has been saying I should come here for at least three years. Fabio – a loyal follower of the blog – knew I’d love all the rich gastronomic history, all the glorious food and wine from the Piemonte region of Italy, but there are plenty of reasons to visit Turin apart from food – even though its cuisine offers some of the finest food and wine in Italy. Turin was the first capital of a unified Italy in 1861. Although it can’t boast the same political significance today, it is an important cultural, economic and industrial centre.
I flew from Gatwick and my plane landed – a little late – around 5pm. I’d already decided to splash out on a taxi – having checked likely cost with my hotel – and was glad I did. If I was a nervous passenger there were moments of possible terror in the back of my taxi as it sped through Turin. I don’t think anyone could have got me here faster – and it still took half and hour at a cost of €33.
I’m always a little nervous of having booked a single room. They can be dire specimens. But my room at 4* Grand Hotel Sitea is beautiful.
There was even a handwritten welcome note and little gift of a box of biscuits from a local bakers.
I unpacked and then headed straight out to explore and find somewhere for dinner. I booked everything through British Airways and chose this hotel for its very central location – always good for a weekend break – so it was only a short walk to the main piazzas of San Carlo and Castello.
The architecture is grand and elegant and I was delighted to see there were many porticos running down the side of buildings, which reminded me of Bologna.
I decided to head to Ristorante Consorzio, which I’d read good things about and was only about 15 minutes walk from the hotel. I arrived soon after 7pm and as it wasn’t yet open, I wandered on and decided to just opt for somewhere I liked the look of. In Via dei Mercanti I looked at two places but chose the busier Banco Vini e Alimenti. A relaxed and informal wine bar serving good food seemed an appealing choice.
It was warm enough to sit outside, although I did keep my jacket on. They said I could only have the table until 9pm but that was fine; plenty of time for me to eat supper. I ordered a glass of prosecco and it came with sun-dried tomatoes and a small slice of farinata. Farinata is made from chickpea flour and it was wonderful; really tasty.
While I waited for my food, I googled the wine bar and discovered it was an offshoot of the restaurant I’d been aiming for – Consorzio – which seemed like an amazing coincidence. My starter was a kind of thick aubergine soup, served chilled with confit of tomatoes and soft goats’ cheese.
Turin appears to be a city for meat lovers. It’s a good job I’m a meat eater. They seem to like the less appealing parts too – there was a whole section of ‘entrails’ and lots of pig. I chose for my main pigs’ cheeks cooked in red wine with some fried courgettes on the side.
The pork was fabulous – it fell apart it was so beautifully cooked and rich in flavour. The courgette ‘chips’ was wonderful – quite the best I’ve eaten. I chose a glass of local Barbera wine to go with it.
I was quite full but couldn’t resist a dessert – not when panna cotta, a speciality of the Piemonte region, was on offer. It came with a sweet reduced red wine dressing.
It had the perfect amount of wobble and was simply one of the best panna cottas I’ve ever had. What a fantastic find Banco had been – and for me purely by chance. The staff were friendly and helpful too. I finished with an espresso and paid my bill (€43) then set off back to the hotel, following the route I’d come. In Piazza San Carlo there was a good live concert going on and I stopped for a while.
I was back at the hotel quite early but tired after spending most of the day travelling. However, after only a short few hours here, I already feel I’m going to love Turin and look forward to more exploring and eating over the rest of the weekend.