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City guide to Turin

As part of an Italian city guide series, Decanter explores the understated refinement of Turin, unified Italy’s first capital.

Unified Italy’s first capital and the historical home of the Savoy dynasty, Turin is one of the country’s most beautiful cities. There’s an air of understated refinement throughout its wide avenues and elegant piazzas surrounded by Baroque palazzi and historic cafes. The Valentino park stretches alongside the river Po, a majestic presence flowing through the centre, while the Mole Antonelliana building with its landmark spire hosts an exceptional cinema museum.

Where to stay

Connect with Turin’s innate style with a stay at Palazzo del Carretto. The beautiful, spacious interiors feature original 17th-century decoration enhanced by occasional contemporary art and design elements. Rooms have coffee machines, apartments have kitchens and there’s private parking.

Where to eat

Among Turin’s favourite winter-warmer dishes are Barolo or Barbera-braised beef and bagna cauda – a hot sauce of garlic, anchovies and olive oil, for dipping raw vegetables. They’re best enjoyed at neighbourhood trattorias of modest city districts such as Porta Palazzo, home to a vast daily market, and San Salvario where Scannabue is popular for its delicious cuisine and attractive dark green-themed decor. Classic dishes include agnolotti (meat-filled pasta), there’s homemade gelato and an intriguing selection of more than 800 wines.

On the eastern side of the river Po, the charming Borgo Po district stretches up the hill with inviting options such as Trattoria Decoratori e Imbianchini, hosted in the appealing house and garden of the historic guild of painters and decorators and serving tasty traditional dishes including much-loved vitello tonnato (veal in tuna sauce) with Piedmont wines.

Back over the river in the city centre, opposite Palazzo Carignano, Italy’s first parliament, one-star Michelin Ristorante Del Cambio dates from the mid-18th century; Italy’s first prime minister Cavour was a regular. Visit the atmospheric wine cellar and opt for the historic dining room or exclusive chef’s table.

Where to drink

Turin is wonderfully well-off for wine bars, and thanks to the Piedmont region’s 19 DOCG, 41 DOC wines and some 30 native grape varieties in all, it can draw on a supply of local wines that’s hard to match for quality and diversity. Piedmont wines are celebrated each autumn with multiple events within the Vendemmia a Torino – Grapes in Town festival held across some of the city’s loveliest locations.

Alta Langa DOCG traditional-method sparklers open most wine lists and while these are Pinot Nero and/or Chardonnay, lesser-known local varieties are ever-more popular. Fresh white wines such as Nascetta, Favorita and Erbaluce are holding their own among well-established Arneis and Cortese, while youthful, fruity reds such as Grignolino, Freisa and Pelaverga are gaining popularity alongside classic Barolo, Barbaresco and other versions of Nebbiolo.

The Rossorubino wine bar-store, run by the Gazzera brothers, stocks a pretty exhaustive range. It’s extremely active with tastings and events, 15 or more wines are available by the glass and there’s a lunchtime menu. Only Piedmont wines are served, many sourced direct from small producers, at relaxed Caffé-Vini Emilio Ranzini (@caffeviniemilioranzini), where the simple, old-style decor is unchanged since the owners’ grandfather’s day. Snacks include platters, fritters and meatballs.

Places to visit

Crossing the river via the Vittorio Emanuele I bridge, the views over the city from the stately 17th-century Villa della Regina are magnificent. One of Turin’s 22 Savoy residences, it was built to the ancient Roman model and Filippo Juvarra contributed to the lavish interior renovation. After 150 years of abandonment, the villa’s Vigna della Regina plot of Freisa vines was restored in the early 2000s by the Balbiano family, whose winery is further out from the city, at Andezeno near Chieri. Since early 2023, vineyard management has passed to the owner of Ristorante Del Cambio and Orsolina28, a winery in Monferrato, east of Turin, that hosts dance retreats and gardening therapy experiences. ‘We will certainly be making a dedicated wine with Vigna della Regina grapes,’ says agronomist Umberto Bonifacino, ‘and we plan to offer vineyard experiences, to share the incredible patrimony of which we’re lucky enough to be custodians.’

A bottle of Cocchi vermouth

Insider tip

Sip a vermouth in the city where the aromatised wine was first created in the 18th century. Even better, sip three, paired with a selection of bites, as part of the city’s Extra Vermouth experience, at atmospheric Caffè Elena.

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