Merenda Reale: Sweet Afternoon Snack from Turin
Merenda Reale: the sweet afternoon snack invented in Turin by the Royal Family of Savoy.
Have you ever experienced this afternoon craving for something sweet and delicious that goes well with your coffee or tea? Turin invented the Merenda Reale, which you probably never heard of, unless your taste buds experienced it. Embrace yourself for this next level eating experience.
Turin’s Merenda Reale or literally translated Royal Snack is a tradition from the 1700s at the Savoy court to satisfy the nobles in between lunch and dinner time, and even after dinner time…
Every country has its own recipe for this, just think of the English afternoon tea (sandwiches, scones and sweet pastries with different blends of tea) or the Swedish Fika (a relaxing coffee and cake break).
In Turin, the most important ingredient of this delicious moment is chocolate of course, served together with other sweet and tasty delicacies of the Piedmont region.
The Sweet Tooth of the Royal Savoy in History
So, who are the Savoy? Here we are not referring to the cabbage with its densely wrinkled leaves.
The House of Savoy is a royal dynasty that was established in 1003 in the Alpine region between what is now France and Italy.
A Savoy duke, named Emanuele Filiberto, introduced chocolate to the city of Turin, because he got to know it in the Spanish army (the Spanish brought cacao beans from the New World to the continent).
Hot chocolate was the starting point for the Merenda Reale in the 1700s.
A hundred years later, the bicerin (a coffee drink with hot chocolate and foamed milk) became an additional treat together with a royal selection of biscuits and cookies called bagnati (a term that refers to the fact they were to be dipped into the chocolate drinks). Yum!
Of course, there are plenty of places where you can enjoy the Merenda Reale in Turin today.
Usually weekends after 2PM are the best time to try your luck, although you might best make a reservation to ensure your table.
Caffè San Carlo (Piazza San Carlo, 156) offers Merenda Reale in two versions, so you can choose for the version of the 18th or the 19th century.
For the latter, there are three courses of which the first one begins with the addictive bicerin, accompanied by seven biscotti whose recipes are rooted in the region’s pastry traditions.
We list them here for you:
– Garibaldini, made with raisins and jam
– Baci di dama, macaron-like with a chocolate filling
– Savoiardi, similar to Ladyfingers
– Brutti ma buoni, a hazelnut cookie
– Ovarini, light, butter-free cookies
– Granellati, sugar-coated biscuits
The second “course” consists of:
– Garibaldin, which is a bit like buttered bread
– Meliga biscuit, made from a cornmeal batter
For the third and last course (you made it!) there are even more treats, like nocciolini di Chivasso, a meringue and hazelnut cookie, chocolate fondants and cri-cri, chocolate-covered hazelnuts.
If you like to taste the 18th century’s version, you can try the Café of the Palazzo Reale (Piazzetta Reale – Turin), the Caffetteria of the Castello di Rivoli (Piazza Mafalda di Savoia – Rivoli) and the Caffetteria degli Argenti at the Reggia di Venaria (Piazza della Repubblica 4).
We hope you now have some better understanding on what to try when you are in Turin. And of course, we would be very happy to show you as well!
Join our Chocolate & Sweets Tour for something really unique, out of the travel guide and amazingly delicious…
Or let us know what else you have in mind: we’d love customising your very unique experience and infusing it with deliciousness.
Feel free to reach out to us any time: [email protected]
With Love (& chocolate) from Turin,
Cecilia & Chef Abram
Note: please share this blog post with those who may like to experience the magic of Turin’s chocolate. Thank you!