Porta Palazzo Market, the gastronomic heart and rumbling tum of Turin, lies to the north of the city centre. It fills, the not inconsequential space, of Piazza della Repubblica, selling clothes, shoes, household-goods, haberdashery, plants and every kind of food imaginable. Every Saturday, just around the corner in Borgo Dora, there is also the Balon, an antiques market. On Sundays, twice a month, when there is no other market, there is an even bigger bash, known as the Grand Balon. The reputation of these markets is such, that they say in Turin, “if you are looking for something, just go to Porta Palazzo.”
I had never stayed in the market area and I wnted to see the city from that side. I booked the art Albergo Restaurant San Giors.
www.albergoristorantesangiors.com-torino.com/en/ It looked like it had character; the restaurant sounded promising; and the position was perfect.
The Art Hotel and Restaurant San Giors
on Borgo Dora
We arrived right in the thick of it, on a sunny, Sunday morning in March. The streets were crammed with stalls, and people were swarming like flies. The only hope of moving along, was to go with the flow. Traffic and parking are strictly banned on flee market days as there isn’t an inch of available space. Small restaurants and bars crowd along the curve of Via Borgo Dora. There is chatter and laughter around the tables, everyone wants a spot in the sun and if you are in the know, you can ear mark a table for when it comes free. We ate indoors. Potatoes with squid and peas and diminutive pasta purses filled with an aubergine stuffing. The food was simple, inexpensive, satisfying fare and came with plenty of people watching opportunities.
The daily market is said to be the largest outdoor market in Europe. It is cut into four distinct quarters, by two dissecting roads that bring buses and trams, delivering shoppers from all sides of the city. A service road runs around the entire square but it’s easy to lose your bearings as each quarter looks the same.
|Young cavolo nero leaves and radish|
|Wild poppy shoots|
|Just one of many kitchen stalls at Porta Palazzo market|
|The cathedral square of San Giovanni|
It’s a fun area to stay and handy for much of the city centre, but like all tourist-crowded areas, you need to keep your wits about you. The lovely Cathedral of San Giovanni, containing the Turin Shroud is a stone’s throw away. You can walk to the Quadrilatero from here to enjoy the contempory night-life scene.
fun for the kids outside
the Egyptian museum
An afternoon visit to Superga
After the rain! Time
for an aperitivo
in Piazza Vittorio
A short walk away you can enjoy the elegant Piazza Castello and the Royal Palace and castle, Via Roma and Piazza San Carlo, Piazza Vittorio and the Via Roma with its elegant shops, but remember the lunch time pausa when most shops are closed. These places are all connected by the city’s convenient colonnades, affording shelter from the heat in summer and from the wind and rain in winter.
Beyond the city scape, the parks and green hills that surround Turin is the dome of the Superga Basilica. Should you fancy a wild white-knuckle ride on a super bumpy bus as it speeds over the city’s tram lines, followed by a sedate lift to the top of the leafy hill in a quaint funicular railway, it’s a lovely afternoon’s outing. You can have ice cream or refreshments at the top, but unless you are a devotee of the Savoia royals, I would suggest avoiding the visit to the family tombs, once entered the cloister, the key is turned in the gate and there is no escape until the bitter end. www.basilicadisuperga.com/en/
The Molle Antonelliano, houses the
National Museum of cinema
Turin is probably the most foody city you will ever visit. Capital of chocolate; it is where chocolate was first turned to a solid; in other words, chocolate as we know it. Hot chocolate drinks such as Bicerin https://bicerin.it are a must.
Caffe' Mulassano is the perfect place
to rest a while for an aperitive
Gianduia, that heavenly mix of hazelnut and chocolate, myriad sweetmeats and an endless seam of colourful and luscious patisserie must all be sampled https://delcambio.it/it/farmacia-del-cambio/home. The tramezzino or dainty sandwich is said to have been invented in one of the Torino’s historic cafes in Piazza Castello http://www.caffemulassano.com/. Grissini were first made here for an ailing prince. Vermouth was concocted and then popularised by a young herbalist, called Carpano. The aperitive was born here. www.brancadistillerie.com/en/product/antica-formula
Try and hit this charming café at tea time
to enjoy a Bicerin, a special hot
chocolate and a few home made biscuit
Torino’s restaurants are legendary, www.turinitalyguide.com/where-to-eat-like-a-local-in-turin its seasonal specialties include the mountain-fair of fondues and cheeses; on a clear day, the snow-capped Alps drift into view like clouds around the city. The rice is grown on the flatlands in the shadow of the mountains, on the plains of the rivers Po and Dora, providing endless streams of creamy al dente risottos. The hills of Langhe and Roero to the south are awash with a long list of noteworthy wines. In autumn and winter the unmistakable aromas of white and black truffles and wild mushrooms fill the air. Piemonte's cattle provide the tender lean veal, the fassona, for the many raw meat signature dishes and the beef for the celebrated Bollito.
Organic bread from Aosta at the
Campagna Amica Market
in Piazza Cavour Gardens
The Torino I remember in my twenties was always a beautiful well dressed and well-mannered city, at the height of its industrial past. Remember Michael Caine in The Italian Job. Its royal palaces and gardens, its elegant Parisian style, tree line avenues, the colonnaded squares and streets, the churches and elegant cafes formed the perfect back drop for the city’s industrial royalty, captains of industry and their customers and its hard-working people.
People still flock to Torino from far and wide, for Terra Madre and Salone del Gusto and the many international events held at Lingotto. The Winter Olympics did much to bring the city to the attention of the world. Parks and piazzas are filled regularly with people pulling events. There is always something special going on. I only hope that some of the hundreds and thousands of business people and skiers who pass through Torino Caselle airport on their way to Lingotto or the Alps might return to see more of this cultured, culinary capital and even venture beyond into the heart of Piedmont.