Rising fortunes FAMILY FAVOURITES
From Page 1 Olympic chess and world fencing championships were held, housed the adjoining Terra Madre world food symposium.
I’m visiting Turin during the festival, which first took place here in 1998. Held at the end of October every second year, it has rapidly become one of the world’s most important food and wine events, with its ethos of good, clean and fair food. Terra Madre, a world meeting of farming communities, was added to the mix last year.
The event is vast. Growers and producers display their wares at an ocean of stalls that stretches as far as the eye can see. There are lanes dedicated solely to cheeses, cured meats, condiments, grains, meat, fish and so on. There are taste workshops, lectures, dinners, films and musical performances for the five days of the festival. I spend hours taking in this phenomenal food event but with 432 stands and 188 booths showcasing Italian and international wares, I wish I had days to fully explore this bustling metropolis. A by-product of the festival’s success is the Slow Food-backed University of Gastronomic Sciences, an educational institution established jointly by the Piedmont and Emilia-Romagna regions.
Later, I wander across to neighbouring Eataly, the Slow Food-sanctioned megastore selling wares direct from small-scale producers to the public. The store is located in the old Carpano liquor factory — another venue cleverly restyled — and it puts Australian supermarkets to shame.
That Turin was chosen as the base for such an important food event has much to do with the fact that Slow Food president Carlo Petrini hails from nearby Bra. Although better-known Italian regions have traditionally hogged the limelight on the gastronomic front, Turin, and more widely the Piedmont region, has arguably some of the country’s best food credentials.
Piedmont is the biggest rice-producing area in Europe (Carnaroli rice is grown here), it is home to Taleggio and Castelagno cheeses (the region produces more than 200 varieties of cheese), the famous Gianduiotti hazelnut chocolates are a Torinese favourite, grissini hails from here; and Lavazza coffee, too, is from Piedmont.
Bagna cauda (a luscious, wintry pot of anchovies, oil and garlic), bollito misto (mixed boiled meats), vitello tonato (veal with a surprisingly delicious tuna, caper and anchovy sauce) and agnolotti (stuffed pasta) are all regional specialties. White truffles in nearby Alba, meanwhile, are stars in their own right and command their own festival, while Piedmontese wines, such as Barolo and Barbaresco, are among the country’s best.
Even that Italian favourite, the aperitivo, is Torinese; vermouth was invented in the city. The best place to try an aperitivo, Viano informs me, is at one of Turin’s historic cafes, such as the ornate Baratti & Milano in Piazza Castello, which was restored in time for the Winter Olympics. The cafes traditionally were places where Torinese aristocrats and intellectuals liked to gather and chat, or read elite European newspapers such as Le Figaro over aperitivo and snacks.
By the time we reach Baratti & Milano, however, I choose not a martini but a local specialty called bicerin, a delicious blend of chocolate, cream and coffee layered into a glass. In the 17th century everyone liked to drink hot chocolate — a habit imported from the French and Swiss — but cocoa powder was very expensive, so they started to blend it with coffee and cream,’’ says Viano.
It became a favourite drink. The idea is not to stir it but to sip and taste the three different flavours. The Torinese never have it after a meal, always before, and traditionally drink it in winter.’’
Appropriating tastes and ideas from the French, particularly, was not unusual for this Italian city. With its proximity to the French border (Turin is eight hours’ drive from Paris or 11/ hours by plane), the city is much more French than Italian’’, admits Viano. And learning French is quite easy as a lot of words are the same [as the Piedmontese dialect].’’ Food, however, is certainly not Turin’s only drawcard. With its 18 million square kilometres of parkland, 300km of tree-lined streets, four meandering rivers, grand piazzas and ornate shopping arcades, Turin is a city that demands to be explored by foot.
There is little need to travel 140km northeast to Milan for great clothes shopping when there’s the Torinese meccas of via Roma, via Garibaldi and via Po to be explored. Staying at the centrally located Grand Hotel Sitea, I am well placed to seek out the best retail opportunities. Via Roma is perhaps the city’s best shopping strip, its elegant porticoes offering protection from the elements, meaning shopping is possible no matter how testing the weather. On via Roma you’ll find all the biggest names in fashion — Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, Prada and the like — alongside some more affordable options (I nip into Zara to snap up a few bargains). Nearby streets offer everything from homewares to fabrics, jewellery and antiques. Via Garibaldi, the longest pedestrian street in the city, has less expensive stores, selling jeans, books, hi-fi equipment, perfume and lots more. Via Po, meanwhile, is good for antique bookshops and shoe stores. For shopping of a different kind, visit Porta Palazzo — the biggest open-air market in Europe — which is open daily and has stalls selling everything from vegies, fish, meats and cheeses to shoes, clothes and flowers.
On the cultural front, Turin has become a leading THAT such a vast array of good-quality produce is available in Turin is what makes Marina Ramasso’s role as head chef at the delightful L’Osteria del Paluch, a family-owned restaurant in an old farmhouse just out of town, such a joy. ‘‘ I am very lucky to run a small restaurant as I can go to the farm and buy just one dozen eggs; I amnot obliged to go to the shops and buy big quantities,’’ she says. ‘‘ I use traditional recipes and seasonal produce and I try to use local products.’’
After a long day exploring Turin, there is nothing better than a leisurely dinner at Ramasso’s rustic restaurant. I’m treated to some of her delicious homemade fare: bagna cauda and vegetables, pumpkin gnocchi with castelmani cheese and walnuts, veal straccotto and more desserts than I’ve seen in one sitting. Ramasso produces a pile of old cookery books with handwritten Piedmontese recipes from the 19th century, which she has bought from old restaurants and private homes. ‘‘ I have not modified the recipes,’’ she says proudly. ‘‘ I cook from the original dishes.’’
The next night, my dining experience is entirely different. At Ristorante Locanda Mongreno, traditional Italian dishes are turned on their head by chef Pier Bussetti, a Piedmontese son who travelled the world and returned to put what he had learned into practice. Bussetti has turned his attentions to deconstructing Piedmontese favourites. In the most extreme example of the night, Bussetti presents us with his version of veal tongue in red sauce, which comprises a tongue praline, a tiny piece of bruschetta and boiled tongue perched on bread sauce.
The two dining experiences perhaps sum up Turin, a city that values its past but has accepted it must look to the future to succeed in the competitive world of tourism. Michelle Rowe More: Locanda Mongreno, Strada Comunale Mongreno 50, 10132, Turin. Phone +39 011 898 0417.
www.ristorantepaluch.it European capital for contemporary art due to funding from public and private initiatives, and there are dozens of museums and exhibitions to visit.
My favourite among Turin’s myriad cultural collections is the spectacular art nouveau National Cinema Museum, housed inside the five-level Mole Antonelliana building, the city’s focal point. Turin was the birthplace of Italian cinema (it was in Turin in March 1896 that the Lumiere brothers first projected moving pictures) and this museum charts the history of the genre, from
Fashion precinct: Elegant porticoes line Turin’s via Roma, one of the city’s most exclusive shopping streets shadow theatre to animation, cinematography, image and movement, projection and more. There are dozens of hands-on displays and it’s easy to spend a full day exploring the place. Don’t forget to take a trip in the glass-walled lift that ferries visitors to the top of the Mole — mercifully stopping before it shoots, Willy Wonkalike, through the ceiling — and spills its passengers on to an outdoor deck with 360-degree views of the city.
Another great exhibition is the Museum of Egyptian Art, which houses the biggest and most important collection of Egyptian artefacts outside Cairo. The museum is to be increased in size from 6000sq m to 10,000sq m, the first phase of which will be completed by 2011 (the year the city will host the 150th anniversary of Italian unity). Also expected to reopen after renovations in time for this much-anticipated event is the famous Guarini Chapel, which houses the Holy Shroud. With these and many more projects in the pipeline, Turin’s reinvention as a city of the future shows no signs of slowing.
Piano’s new Banca Intesa Sanpaolo skyscraper, near what will be a totally remodelled Porta Susa railway station, is to come on track in the next few years, old industrial neighbourhoods are being transformed into thriving urban villages and million ($104 million) has been allocated to renovate many of the city’s buildings and parks.
Last year, Turin was named the first world design capital, a status almost unthinkable during its industrial past. By the time the much-anticipated 2011 unity celebrations roll into town, the city’s ambitious regeneration will almost be complete.
The city of the car has finally hit the fast lane. Michelle Rowe was a guest of the Italian Tourist Board and Etihad.
Etihad flies to Milan via Abu Dhabi from Sydney and Brisbane and will start services from Melbourne in March. More: www.etihadairways.com. Turin is 140km southwest of Milan, about a 11/ hour drive. Rail connections are available from Milan’s Malpensa Airport. More: Porta Palazzo, Piazza della Repubblica; Baratti & Milano, Piazza Castello. +39 011 440 7138. www.slowfood.com www.terramadre.org www.sitea.thi.it www.museocinema.it www.museoegizio.it www.italiantourism.com.au www.turismotorino.org