Whether you want to shop, eat or just browse, enjoy some of the best slow food in this north Italian city.
It is a bright April morning in Turin, capital of the Piedmont region, and the daily Mercato di Porta Palazzo — said to be the largest outdoor food market in Europe — is packed with shoppers. Like the nearby cathedral housing the Turin Shroud, this is a pilgrimage, and not just for food-lovers, but for home-cooks in search of top-quality ingredients for family meals.
It being spring, there are new-crop salads, massed young snails — the symbol of the Slow Food Movement — making a bid to escape their display boxes, and on the butchers' stalls, tender lamb. Italians would not think of eating lamb at any other time of year; they are, after all, the most assiduous observers of the seasons, and each season brings its own foods. Five kilometers to the south lies another pilgrimage site. Since 2007, the converted Carpano (Punt e Mes) vermouth factory in the Turin suburb of Lingotto has housed the food emporium called Eataly, showcase of the Slow Food ethos. If a traditional Italian food shop is like a jewel box, this is the treasury.
Whole rooms are devoted to fresh fruit and vegetables, seafood, dried and fresh pasta, cured meats , maturing cheeses, wine, preserves, bread and coffee. There are tasting counters and specialty eateries, plus rooms for seminars and lectures. This is not just a shop, but a declaration of intent to enshrine and preserve food that are exhibited at traditional outlets like the Mercato di Porta Palazzo.
When to Go: Any time of year. In winter, feel the freshening chill from the snowcapped Alps to the north; in summer, feel the warmth (July and August can be torrid). The biennial Salone Internazionale del gusto festival is held at Lingotto in October (next in 2014).
Planning: The Mercato di Porta Palazzo, in the Piazza della Republica, takes place every day except Sunday, 6.30am to 1.30pm; Saturday until 7.30pm Eataly is open daily and is accessible from the city center by bus, tram, train or car (directions Lingotto Fiere/8 Gallery). The restaurants in Eataly tend to get busy at peak hours, so it is best to eat slightly early or late
Websites: www.eataly.it, www.slowfood.com, wwwturismotorino.org
The Slow Food Movement
The concept of Slow Food was forged in the mid-1980s, when McDonald's threatened to open a branch by the Spanish Steps in the heart of Rome. To a group of journalists eating together in the town of Bra, to the south of Turin, this represented the ultimate erosion of all they held dear about good Italian food.
Led by Carlo Petrini, the journalists campaigned to reverse this trend, promoting instead values such as the local sourcing of good ingredients, sustainability, artisan (as opposed to factory) production, the careful and respectful preparation of food and conviviality in the eating of it — Slow Food as opposed to Fast Food.
The idea caught on, and now the Slow Food movement has more than 180,000 members forming local chapters, called convivia, in 120 countries. It is also behind the giant biennial food fair in Turin called Salone Internazionale del Gusto, and the school of gastronomy, the Universita di Scienze Gastonomiche.