Postcard from Turin, Italy: Leaving Turin behind with a rare token selfie

Not sure what it says about my self-esteem, but selfies rarely creep into my camera lens. The most frequent exceptions arise from an obsession with reflections.*

Much like the Slow Food movement of Turin, delivery of “postcards” from our 2018 trip to Italy make snail mail appear efficient.

But here are the final random shots leftover from our sojourn in Turin:

*Please note: In the featured photo, my selfie is the shadowy figure on the left. Not the skull.

Postcard from Turin, Italy: A royal villa with a Chinese accent

The tastes of the royals of the House of Savoy required numerous elegant residences for retreats and entertaining around the outskirts of Turin. Vigna, a villa and vineyard, was built on a rise on the other side of the River Po for a cardinal who was the brother of Victor Emanuele I (1587-1637).

In 1684, the estate was inherited by Anne Marie d’Orleans (1669-1728), a niece of King Louis XIV (1638-1715) of France. Eager to maintain and strengthen the French influence over the House of Savoy, Louis XIV earlier had arranged for his 14-year-old niece to marry the young duke, Victor Amadeus II (1666-1732). Victor Amadeus II already was struggling to wrench control from the French-born acting regent, his mother, Maria Christina (1606-1663). While the marriage proved lasting, the King of France sometimes found the Duke of Savoy allying himself with the opposing side on the battlefields of Europe.

After Anne Marie and Victor Amadeus II became the Queen and King of Sardinia, the palace became known as Villa della Regina. The royals’ favored architect, Filippo Juvarra (1678-1736), undertook the conversion of the villa into a more palatial retreat for the queen. The Chinoiserie decorations in vogue following King Louis XIV’s incorporation of them in the Trianon at Versailles took over numerous rooms in the palace.

Victor Emanuele II (1820-1878) donated Villa della Regina to the state of Italy in 1868.

Postcard from Turin, Italy: Home to many a food “invention”

Some of the members of the House of Savoy you were introduced to in the prior post get credit for additions to Turin’s distinctive flavors. Grissini, thin crispy Italian breadsticks, were invented to meet special dietary needs of Vittorio Amadeo II (1666-1732). Perhaps most significant to Italians, Emanuele Filiberto (1553-1580) brought the first chocolate to Italy.

As in Spain, the earliest ways to consume chocolate imported from the New World were in a liquid form. This has survived through the centuries in Turin in the form of bicerin, a rich triple-layered beverage (more like a dessert to me) consisting of thick hot chocolate, espresso and foamy cream. Numerous major chocolate factories are found in the city. With hazelnuts the most popular nut, it is not surprising Nutella was created there. Vermouth and Campari originated in Turin; the city is home to the Slow Food movement; and the first Eataly opened there.

The region’s lean grass-fed beef, fassone, seems most popular when consumed ground and raw. Locals eat huge patties of the meat tartare. I was happy my sampling of it was restricted to a petite amuse bouche. Which is partially why I expected the area cuisine to be dominated by head-to-tail meat offerings.

Much to my pleasant surprise, Turin residents prize their locally grown vegetables. There were a remarkable number of vegetarian restaurants, such as the highly regarded somewhat pricey Soul Kitchen. But even our humble homey neighborhood restaurant, Trattoria Alla Locandina, offered several vegetable dishes, including grilled eggplant and fried zucchini blossoms filled with cheese.

Our go-to lunch spot in Turin, E Cucina Torino, was like a reunion with an old friend. We first encountered Chef Cesare Marretti’s concept of providing limited-menu fixed-price meals in Bologna three years ago. Expect locals to be lined up here for the 10-euro special: a starter; a choice of a meat, seafood or vegetarian entrée; a small dessert; a glass of wine; and an espresso. I found myself always falling for the vegetable platter which included a side salad, a mountain of fresh vegetables hiding a vegetable flan underneath and a ball of fresh mozzarella too massive for me to ever conquer. The Mister was more apt to explore the other options.

Then there is the featured photo above, perhaps my favorite dish in Turin: a layered vegetable tian with a gorgonzola and almond sauce at Ristrot Guviol. We encountered wonderful creations emerging from this kitchen. An impressive crab shell arrived atop a dish of spaghetto with crab and grape tomatoes. A ribbon of raw salmon made a bright stripe across a rich risotto, and there was a tagiolini with squid and a crown of mullet roe.

The food of the Piedmont region is without a doubt among the best in Italy.