The History of Turin’s best Coffee Houses
Since the early 17th century Turin is famous for chocolate, which we have to name in one breath with Turin’s historic coffee houses. In the capital of the Piedmont region, you can enjoy chocolate treats and tasteful coffee in charming historical settings.
Turin’s oldest cafes all have great stories of politicians, artists and revolutionists debating over a coffee. The rich Art Nouveau or Baroque interiors of Turin’s coffee houses will take you back in time. Walk around the city to see these beautiful cafes that are begging you to stop for a bicerin or a cappuccino with a brioche.
Hot Chocolate, Coffee and Milk make Bicerin
Italian café culture is famous, but when you come to tour around Turin, give yourself a sweet treat and taste this chocolate drink they call bicerin. It is made from espresso, chocolate and whole milk, served layered in a small, round glass. Famous fans such as Alexandre Dumas agreed it was worth their taste. Though there is still debate as to which café created the drink, many claim the original recipe was born at Caffè Fiorio.
Gianduiotti, another Chocolate Delight
Besides bicerin, the Piemontese culinary culture consists of more chocolate delights, particularly in combination with the hazelnuts that are famous for this Italian region. “Gianduija” is named after a character from the commedia dell’arte, and the shape of these small chocolate delights should resemble the character’s hat. The original Gianduiotto was created in Turin by Paul Caffarel and Michele Prochet by successfully grinding hazelnuts to a paste and making them into individually wrapped chocolates, distributed at the 1865 Turin Carnival.
Lavazza’s Coffee Landmark
A post about Italy’s coffee culture must mention the brand Lavazza, which had its first store in the city of Turin on Via San Tommaso.
Its history starts with a tiny grocery store that opened in the late 19th century by the company’s founder Luigi Lavazza. Luigi became renown for blending different coffees to suit the tastes of his customers, which made him very popular. What once was a small grocery store turned into a coffee shopover time.
How to Order Coffee in Italy
Now, the real thing – how do you order a coffee in Italy like a local? It can be slightly confusing for non-Italians if you are unfamiliar with the big range of choice and some rituals that accompany Italian coffee culture. One rule of thumb to drink coffee like a local; avoid ordering cappuccino after 11am and, after dinner, order espresso only as the milk is considered too heavy for later in the day. In Italy, you will find that there are various ways to order a coffee. Here are just a few:
Caffè espresso or caffè macchiato – a small, black espresso (or caffè normale) versus a small espresso with a shot of frothy milk.
Cappuccino – espresso coffee and hot milk with steamed milk foam.
Caffè Americano – a diluted espresso served in a large cup.
Caffè Corretto– espresso with a shot of grappa or other spirits added. Perfect for Christmas time!
Caffè freddo – iced coffee in a tall glass, ideal during Summer!
Four Historic Coffee Houses You Should Try
After guiding you through the coffee history of Turin and its chocolate treats, we also like to share a selection coffee houses in the city that contribute to this story.
Of course, you’re also more than welcome to join our irresistibly delicious Tour La Dolce Torino to discover more chocolate gems…
Caffè al Bicerin – Caffè Al Bicerin is among the oldest coffee bars in Turin. As the name suggests, their specialty is the sweet, chocolate-coffee drink bicerin. This tiny coffee bar first opened in 1763. Very little has changed since then: wooden paneling covers the walls and the small tables are always candle-lit. It is said that Camillo Benso of Cavour, the prime minister responsible for Italy’s unification, came here to drink Turin’s famous bicerin. Till today, the cafe still uses the same recipe. Of course there are also other delicious drinks and desserts to choose from, like Zabaione (a combination of Muscat wine, lemon and Passito di Caluso topped with cream and biscuits), bicerin cake, chocolate liquor, gelato and many more.Have a look at their menu and history online for more details.
(Foto credit: www.bicerin.it)
Piazza della Consolata 5, Torino
Caffè Mulassano – The Mulassano dates back from the early 1900s and was popular with artists who worked in the nearby Teatro Regio. The famous Italian tramezzino triangle sandwich was invented here. You can also find sweet pastries, chocolates and coffee. There are only five small tables, so you’ll likely have to stand at the bar to drink your espresso like a real Italian. Be prepared, as this is one of the most historically well-preserved coffee shops in grand Art Nouveau.
Piazza Castello 15, Torino
Caffè Fiorio – Caffè Fiorio dates back from 1780, which you can feel by looking at its grand marble counter, red velvet seats and special wallpaper. Turin’s politicians, aristocrats and literary figures were keen on this place. Nowadays it is still a very popular café, so be prepared for a crowd. When you go, you must try their famous bittersweet hot chocolate or their ice cream cup “Charlotte”.
Baratti & Milano – Founded in 1858, Baratti & Milano takes an important place in the Italian confectionery history. Its founders, Ferdinando Baratti and Edoardo Milano, decided to open a confectionery and liquor store in Via Dora Grossa in Turin. To learn new recipes, Edoardo Milano moved to Paris. However, it was Ferdinando Baratti who created the famous cremino (a type of cube-shaped chocolate consisting of two layers of gianduia interspersed with a chocolate paste containing hazelnuts, coffee or lemon) which later became one of the great classics among Italian chocolates with the Gianduiotto. Try their bicerin and pair it with one of the lovely pastries.