Turin: A Little-Known but Captivating City

Turin was the capital of the dukes of Savoy for centuries before Italy became a unified country in 1871, and it has long been a major banking and manufacturing center. Today, it is a visibly wealthy city perhaps best known for its association with the carmaker Fiat. Easily reached by train from Milan or Rome, it is a refined and walkable place that remains under the radar of most travelers despite its many attractions. Two days are required to visit its excellent museums, including the Museo Egizio, which has the world’s second-largest collection of ancient Egyptian art (after Cairo), and the Galleria Sabauda, which contains the royal art collections amassed by the House of Savoy. These include outstanding paintings by Mantegna, Fra Angelico and Filippino Lippi, among other Italian masters. You may also wish to see the controversial and enigmatic Shroud of Turin, which is kept in the royal chapel of the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist.

I prefer to stay at the 120-room Grand Hotel Sitea, a conveniently located and well-run traditional property where rooms are decorated in the classic style that the Italians call signorile, or “lordly and distinguished.” This translates to damask curtains, Empire-style furniture and Brussels carpets. The excellent Carignano Restaurant offers a Piedmont tasting menu as well as international cuisine, while the peaceful American Bar is a haven for cocktails and light meals, including a delicious Piedmont “hamburger” of minced veal.

Elsewhere in Turin, the restaurant not to miss is fabled Del Cambio, which opened in 1757. By 2012, when it was purchased by the investor Michele Denegri, its luster had long faded. A team of restorers, carpenters and upholsterers was hired to rehabilitate its glorious historic dining rooms, with their 19th-century frescoes and gilded boiserie. Chef Matteo Baronetto, who worked for nearly two decades under Milan-based chef Carlo Cracco, presents refined dishes such as hazelnut consommé with steamed shrimp in an elderflower sauce; ravioli with mascarpone cheese, beet, sea urchin and squid; and the local specialty Finanziera (veal sweetbreads).

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