If you are in Turin and stay at the Majestic Hotel, a short stroll through the piazzas and porticos of the town centre is an adventure for the soul and taste, where spiritual and material pleasures go hand in hand.
Turin’s devout citizens once enjoyed a “bicerin”, a drink of coffee, chocolate and milk served in a glass.
Al Bicerin is the actual name of the coffee shop opened in 1763 opposite the Santuario della Consolata, and still very well frequented.
In Piazza Castello there is a little Art Nouveau jewel, the Mulassano, with a window dressed with heavy, red velvet curtains which were closed only when members of the Royal Family entered, to ensure their privacy.
Via Po emerges into Piazza Vittorio Veneto, a true architectural prodigy which manages to “disguise” the good 7.19 metres difference in ground level with houses seemingly all the same, but actually gradually taller towards the river and the spectacular view of the church of the Gran Madre. It inspired Casorati and De Chirico, and is home to Turin’snight scene, including the Caffè Elena, which has kept its original decor from the Forties, when Cesare Pavese was a habitué.
But the city’s “drawing room” is Piazza San Carlo with its noble baroque buildings, built on the site of a Roman amphitheatre. Under the arcades are some of Turin’s most celebrated cafes, from the neo-classical elegance of the San Carlo, the first cafe in Italy to adopt gas lighting, to the floral Liberty style of the Caffè Torino.
Opposite is the celebrated Confetteria Stratta, which in a cavalcade of mirrors, stucco and boiseries from 1836, offers chocolates, sweets and marrons glacés, its specialty since the days of Cavour (who was a regular customer – they still have the original invoices!).
For the sacred rite of the aperitif, the Mokita, with its Art Deco look is next door.