Turin & Chocolate
Ahh, Turin. The word that comes to mind when I think about Turin, is “stately.” The center of town was really one of the most elegant and rational plans I’ve ever seen anywhere.
Below is the grand Piazza San Carlo, designed in the 1600s in the Baroque style, which we first encountered beautifully illuminated the evening we arrived.
Passing straight through the piazza was the Via Roma, with lots of high-end stores, including the city’s Apple Store.
We also passed by this Cinema Lux, with its beautiful Art Deco sign.
The main monument of Turin is the Mole Antonelliana. Inside is actually a hollow space housing the National Cinema Museum along the sides. And piercing through the middle of the void is a rather small elevator that goes from the basement to what looks like a two-story classical building perched on top!
Not surprisingly, the views from up here were pretty nice. This was looking south, with the River Po on the left hand side.
So besides the Mole Antonelliana, the other “sights” of the city I wanted to visit were the chocolate shops! Turin is known as a capital of chocolate, and above all is famous for being the place where the hazelnut-chocolate combination, known to many as Nutella, was born.
It was actually an interesting story. While Turin was under Napoleonic French rule, trade with the British was restricted, and this squeezed cocoa imports. So here in the Piemonte region, the chocolatiers turned to the local hazelnuts to mix with the cocoa to stretch their supplies. And thus was born the heavenly combination! Truly a story of making lemonade with lemons.
Our first stop was Guido Castagna, which seemed from a design standpoint to be rather modern, with minimalistic packaging. But the techniques used are totally traditional, the ladies in the store told us.
The ladies were very nice, giving us samples of the gianduiotto to try! Gianduiotti are ingot-shaped mounds of solid gianduja, wrapped up.
On account of being Easter time, they also had a special collection of chocolate eggs. These were what I ended up buying!
The one in black foil was a dark chocolate filled with gianduja and cocoa nibs, with those nibs giving a lovely crunch, and the chocolate quite fruity in aroma. The egg wrapped in pink had a dark chocolate exterior, with hazelnut paste interior. It was amazing that these versions with dark chocolate contained no milk at all, but the nuts in the gianduja and hazelnut paste gave the most luxurious creaminess! The egg wrapped in green was my favorite. Well, I’m already partial to anything green, but this one had milk chocolate enclosing pistachio paste. Wow, this one was truly special. The pistachio tasted just like pure pistachio nuts, only completely creamy.
After Guido Castagna, we went to Guido Gobino. Okay, this store was completely packed inside! Given that I later came across an outlet of this brand in the airport, I’d say this brand is perhaps more commercial and well-known. They also give tours at their factory in the northern part of town on weekdays. Not surprisingly, the staff here didn’t give out samples given that so many seemed to be clamoring to buy.
So here, we decided just to buy a few things to try, not wanting to invest in a lot of purchases without tasting first. We bought a sample of cremini, which are traditionally composed of three layers: two layers of gianduja sandwiching one layer of hazelnut paste. Here, we tried the traditional one with the hazelnut paste, along with one with a caramel layer, one salted version, and one with a “cappuccino” layer.
Honestly I didn’t taste much difference among the cremini, except for the cappuccino, whose bitter coffee flavor cut through the sweetness of the gianduja.
We also bought a bag of gianduiotti, with varying proportions of cocoa and hazelnuts. Honestly, I didn’t sense huge differences among them either, at least not enough where I could give a preference for one type versus another.
If I had to go back to one of these stores, I’d definitely choose Guido Castagna, because the lack of crowds simply made for a more calm shopping experience, where we could taste the different chocolates and appreciate them carefully.
Via Maria Vittoria, 27/C
La Bottega, Guido Gobino
Via Giuseppe Luigi Lagrange, 1