One of the things that sucks about working in the Italian wine business is that you don’t get to spend much time in Italy’s major cities.
Don’t get me wrong: There’s nothing to complain about hanging out in wine country where the good wine flows and the food can be exceptional, especially when it comes to the “farm to table” or “chilometro zero” (“zero kilometer”) experience, as the Italians say.
But when you only spend time in wine country, as beautiful and compelling as it can be, you’re missing out on one of the things that makes Italy so great and so unique in a world perspective — its cultural capitals.
I consider myself incredibly fortunate to be able to spend so much time in Italy for work. I go to the region Piedmont at least four or five times a year thanks to my teaching gig at the Slow Food University of Gastronomic Sciences and my connections to the wine industry there.
But before I met Michele Marsiaj, the owner of Amistà (we met in person for the first time in wine country btw), I had never really spent much time in Piedmont’s capital, Turin or Torino (toh-REE-noh) in Italian. Yeah, I had passed through on my way to wine country but had never stopped to smell the roses. Man, when he invited me to check out his city for a couple of days, I was blown away by how much fun I had there.
When Turin became unified Italy’s first capital (1861), it was already emerging as an epicenter for the nation’s industrial revolution. One of Italy’s wealthiest cities at the time, it was the seat of Italy’s monarchy (the House of Savoy). Since the days of the early Italian kingdom, it has always been a capital of European culture, including its urban planning and architecture, its museums and cultural institutions, and, of course, its gastronomy.
Turin is home to one of the greatest Egyptology collections in the world. It’s also home to Italy’s national cinema museum (Turin is also where Italy’s film industry was born long before Rome became Italy’s cinema capital). It’s also home to Italy’s national automobile museum. After all, FIAT was founded in Turin. And there are so many more cultural loci I could point you to, including the city’s impossibly beautiful piazzas and porticos.
But the thing I loved the most about it was the city’s cosmopolitan landscape. I drooled over vintage record shops (a classical music vinyl-focused shop, too!). I swooned over its rare book shops (like the one above). And of course, the food scene there is ridiculously delicious. I loved how you could walk into even a workaday old line restaurant and find a fantastic wine list and great food.
If you’re a city kid like me, you’re really going to dig the urban vibe in this wonderful city, where you can go jogging along the banks of the Po River (spectacular!) and attend the Salone del Gusto, the annual Slow Food fair (exceptional).
The city lies only about an hour from Nizza Monferrato and the Amistà winery. And you can bet that it’s becoming a mandatory stop for me when I head to wine country (I’ll be back in March in the days leading up to Vinitaly; I can’t wait!).
Part of my journey here at Amistà is going to be my exploration of Turin and its unending urban wonders. Turin, btw, is also the birthplace of vermouth. Stay tuned for more to come… Thanks for being here.