© Fabulorum. José Medio

Why is Torino such a gem? Squeezed in the north of Italy between a more muscular Milan and a glittering Riviera, it has remained ignored by tourist hordes and destination guides. Undaunted, cool and intellectual, it exudes an air of healthy self-absorption. This city is a blissful caprice of destiny.

Nowhere is its personality more alive than in the coffee houses and its culture. Luigi Lavazza founded his famous company here in 1895. At first sight, there seems to be a superabundance of these locales. Lavish or intimate, over decorated or modest, they infiltrate and rule civic life. Journalists, politicians, intellectuals and common folk have been promoting the excellence of Torinese coffee and all its derivatives: “pur e fiur” (coffee and cream) ”pur e barba” (coffee and chocolate) and the king of all, “bicerin”, a mouthwatering combination of shots of expresso, thick chocolate and hot milk or cream carefully layered in a glass. One sips the concoction without stirring it. The experience sends shivers through the spine. Al Bicerin coffee house, where reputedly it has originated, they serve it in the same tables where Alexander Dumas and Nietzsche savored it.

 Enjoying an expresso, of instantly ground beans, filtered through steam and a squirt of water, leaves behind and forever any other similar experience. Try it at the tiny Mulassano, an art nouveau jewel, arguably one of the two smallest salons in the city. Or at the opulent Baratti & Milano a few doors away, where the décor of bronze and marble dazzles the eyes before an array of gianduiotti, hazelnut flavored chocolates, awakens your taste buds. The rituals of coffee and chocolate radiate a strange nobility in this city.  After you have been here, your love of coffee will take a new turn, as if a languid passion has been reawakened.