The story of a region can be told through the most traditional events and the most varying kind of curiosities about gastronomy. By now gastronomic special events, exhibitions, and programs have become the recognized protagonists in Piedmont’s new model of tourist development.
Penguins on parade
Penguins are always popular in Turin. It was here in 1935 that ice cream maker Pepino had the brilliant idea of the “pinguino da passeggio” (literally, a penguin to stroll with): a slab of vanilla ice cream covered in dark chocolate,all handily presented on a wooden stick. Pepino’s “pinguini” were immediately copied, in Italy and abroad, and changed the whole concept of ice cream for the people of Turin. Pepino’s ice cream parlour is still there in Piazza Carignano, next to the theatre of the same name, just as it was in the 30s. Enjoy a “pinguino” at one of the outdoor tables, or take one “for a stroll”, as you admire the splendid baroque facade of Palazzo Carignano, one of the finest in Turin.
Foods of the Gods
Chocolate is additive: everyone knows that. Ever since 1537, when Prince Emanuele Filiberto of Savoy returned from Spain after the battle of San Quintino, bringing chocolate to Turin for the first time, the food of the gods has been at home in this city.
Generation after generation of great pastry cooks and chocolate makers have dedicated all their genius to creating wonderful chocolate from cacao. The chocolate and hazelnut cream, Gianduia, was the inspiration for Nutella, developed in Alba and now famous all over the world. It even had a starring role in “Bianca”, Nanni Moretti’s cult movie. The first “cremini” chocolates were created in by Baratti, and served in their cafè Baratti, which has still today its original Art Nouveau dècor and is one of the most beautiful of Turin’s historic cafès. And even today the tradition continues. Guido Gobbino, with his creative brilliance (not forgetting modern marketing techniques), has given us the Turinot – mini gianduiotti – while his most recent inventions are delicious pumpkin filled chocolates.
CioccolaTò, Chocolate Comes To Town
Chocolate as art and sweet delight. Each year the streets and squares of Turin are the stage for a food fair celebrating chocolate, food of the gods.
There is music, theatre, entertainment for children: all on the theme of chocolate. Chocolate lovers, local or visitors, can discover and sample chocolate of all kinds – an endless variety of forms and flavours.
Not to mention the sculptures, models and pictures made of chocolate; or readings from literature extolling its virtues. And the latest discovery of the cosmetics industry is that chocolate is toning and refreshing for the skin, the opposite of what mother always told us.
Chocolate – Photo © 45street
Raspberries and cheese
The air is like champagne when you are 1,700 or 2,000 mt above sea level. A walk in the mountains takes you to the village of Grand Chalp, to visit the Stazione Sperimentale Alpina “Vittorio Mezzani”, an experimental mountain agricultural center. The center consists of 82 hectares of land. Some is used for pastures or for experiments in growing medicinal plants and aromatic herbs. But berry fruits – red currents, raspberries, blackberries – are also grown and are intended to accompany the delicious cheeses made in the dairy at the center. Grand Chalp holds a famous cheese fair (Sagra del Formaggio) each year in August, while the Sagra della Patata, held in September, is a celebration of the potato.
Cavour’s Sweetest Bill
In a museum in Santena, not far from Turin, we find a historical document proving that the Count of Cavour, (eminent politician, one of the Fathers of modern Italy) had a decided weakness for sweets and cakes. In 1860, just one year before the Unification of Italy, a receipt signed by the Stratta Brothers, renowned confectioners from Turin, tells us that Cavour paid 2,547 Lira and 60 cents for the purchase of 29 kilos of marrons glacès; 18 kilos of sorbet mandarins; 37 kilos of dried and glacè fruits; as well as quantities of biscuits and cakes, jams, meringues and other sweets. The Confetteria Stratta, sweet and cake shop, is still open today in Piazza San Carlo in the center of Turin, with its original, elegant dècor, and still delights the sweet toothed members of the city’s high society.
Fontanafredda Wine Cellars – Photo © ambri22
Festival of Flavor
The sandstone of the Langhe hills has the power to lend a distinctive flavor and character to all the foods grown in their soil. Or so the residents of Bergolo, a village of traditional stone houses midway between Alba and Savona, believe.
To celebrate this fact they hold a food and wine festival at the end of each summer, called “I Sapori della Pietra” ( flavors from stone). At this fair you can sample local wine and food, take part in games, and see shows and concerts.
While you are being entertained you will also be learning about the history and geology of this area where, over the centuries, terraces for growing vines and olive trees have been carved out of the sandstone hills.
Chiocciolina – celebrating the snail
If you are an aficionado of snails you must visit the town of Borgo San Dalmazzo, in Cuneo province. For almost fifty years a snail fair has been held here; Prince Emanuele Filiberto inaugurated it in 1569. Here you will find snails for eating and snails to be used for health treatments. The classic recipe for cooking snails : plunge snails into boiling water; then cook slowly with herbs for two hours. Of the curative products containing snails, the Helix Pomata Alpina is an ointment that relieves pain, while the syrup containing the same ingredients helps to cure coughs and sore throats.
San Baudolino’s Silver Fair
San Baudolino, the patron saint of Alessandria, (Umberto Eco’s home town), lends his name to a fair that celebrates the local food and wine produced in the area, as well as the splendid craftsmanship of the silversmiths who have traditionally worked in the city. During the fair the “city of silver” is thronged with people, stalls, folk dancing and music, and demonstrations of ancient crafts. So visitors can discover an unexpected side to this tranquil corner of Monferrato. The fair also includes an exhibition of truffles and a dog show. Truffle dogs only, of course.
Invitation to a Royal Banquet
The unspoiled beauty of the green hills of Canavese and the valleys of Lanzo inspired many royal sovereigns to entertain noble guests for sumptuous meals and banquets. Today in those very settings, the chefs of La Tavola in festa will be serving the same royal menus that delighted the taste buds of Kings Vittorio Emanuele II, Umberto I e Vittorio Emanuele III. Only this time the invitation is extended to all the “subjects” as well. When you take part in one of our banquets we will guide you in a journey into history, through the food and wine you will eat and drink. Entertainment typical of a traditional country fair will accompany the meal, ensuring that the whole day will be an unforgettable experience.
Courtesy of Regione Piedmont