Coffee drinking in Italy is seen as a right rather than just a pleasant way to start the day, so much so that the price of a coffee in Italy is regulated by the government. If you stand at the bar to order and drink your coffee, it will always be a fixed low price, no matter how fancy and luxurious the café is. If you sit at a table, however, the café can charge any price it likes. Sometimes, it is worth paying more so that you can sit under ceiling frescos and chandeliers, and be served your coffee and dainty pastries on a silver tray by a white-coated, bow-tied waiter.
Turin, in the northern region of Piedmont, is famous for its cafes and good coffee. There are many, many cafes scattered through the city, and everybody has their favorite. The cafés that will be introduced to you’re here are some of the oldest and most beautiful places you can go to in the centre of the city to enjoy your coffee while admiring the surroundings.
- Caffè San Carlo
The beautiful Caffe San Carlo sits on one end of the breathtakingly large Piazza San Carlo. It was founded in 1822, and as an interesting side fact, was the first café in Italy to get gas lighting inside. You can sit in the sun outside, or revel in the opulent interior awash with gilt, marble, and large mirrors while drinking a frothy cappuccino.
- Caffè Torino
Caffè Torino lies at the opposite end of Piazza San Carlo from Caffè San Carlo. It also has exceptional coffee and pastries. Make sure you visit the interior. After passing the long, highly-polished dark-wood bar, you come to an imposing chandelier that illuminates an area of tables set out in front of a sweeping staircase. I try to treat myself at least once each time I’m in Turin by sitting at one of these tables, eating a brioche alla marmellata, and sipping a marocchino: a delectable coffee, chocolate, and foamy milk drink which is a speciality of Turin.
- Caffè Mulassano
Caffè Mulassano is small, with only a few tables. Try to get a seat in one of its bay windows that look out under the arcades at the pedestrians strolling past. The cafe still manages to squeeze in a chandelier, which seems to be an obligatory feature of the more venerable cafes in Turin. The espresso here is dark and wonderfully thick without being bitter. I love that they serve you a tiny glass of sparkling water with your coffee, as all the best cafes do, to drink after your coffee.
- Caffè Milano E Baratti
Caffè Baratti E Milano will be turning 160 years old in 2018. It was named after the two men who first founded it as a pastry and sweet shop. Today, it is still renowned for its chocolates and confectionary, and also for its excellent coffee and hot chocolate.
- Caffè Palazzo Reale
This cafe is my personal favorite in the centre of Turin. It is hidden behind an arcade on the left side of the main entrance to the Palazzo Reale (The Royal Palace). It is one of the most recent arrivals, but is situated in the restored library of the palace, so is replete with chandeliers, and dark wood panelling. The shelves that once housed books for the Royal Library now display beautiful antique dinnerware.
These five cafes are just a small taste of the excellent cafes in Turin. If you go to the city, you will see that every neighbourhood has its own cafes. Locals will often go to the bar two or three times a day to have a quick coffee fix at the bar before carrying on with their daily routine. Life without coffee in Turin would be unthinkable!
Lisa Watson is a writer who grew up on a sheep farm in New Zealand and now lives in France. She has a love of cooking, particularly Italian cuisine. Follow her on her blog, Italian Kiwi and also on Twitter, FaceBook, and Instagram.
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