Vegan Living - All You Can Eat
Now that my adventures are vegan, I am lucky enough to get to chronicle them in Vegan Living magazine - our coffee-fueled sprint around Turin, Italy, was covered in last month's issue.
Here is my blog version, with extra pictures.
In the summer of 2016 the mayor of Turin announced plans to make Turin Italy’s first vegetarian city. And with that, it shot to the top of my travel bucket list. Because since going vegan, holidays are all about discovering vegan-friendly destinations. If one were to find oneself in a not-very-vegan friendly town then eating would be a chore and who’d want that from a holiday? Not this foodie.
Turin is so plant-based that Happy Cow was luring me with promises of 20 vegan restaurants. Not even just veggie, or veggie friendly. Full on, 100% committed, I can eat EVERYTHING on the menu vegan! Sold - my husband and I booked a long weekend to mark ten years together, two years vegan.
Mayor Chiara Appendino has divided her city with her pledge to promote vegetarian and vegan diets. But meat lovers can calm down, she has not banned salami. You can still drink cow’s milk without getting arrested, if you are so inclined. All Mayor Appendino aims for is to endorse meat and dairy-free living as ‘fundamental to the protection of the environment, health and the well-being of animals.’ What a legendary mayor.
We booked the Torino Suite online, a small apartment with a beautiful exposed brick ceiling, walking distance from almost everything we did during our stay. Meal number one at Flower Burger, a fast food joint with bright artwork on the walls and bright buns for their burgers - beetroot pink, mustard yellow and charcoal black. It was a great first pitstop, helping us feel we’d truly arrived in a vegan mecca, for it was abuzz with happy customers.
While waiting to be hungry for our next meal, we discovered that Torino is a mighty fine city to stroll around. Almost every road revealed the spectacle of more striking architecture. The city is a feast for the eyes and the belly. We decided to be cultural and visit Palazzo Madama museum. Buying our tickets, the receptionist informed us we could buy a museum pass and visit as many museums as we liked. Well, we said hesitantly, surely there can’t be enough museums to make this worthwhile? ‘There are eight…’ he said. ‘In this square alone.’
And so we averaged eight miles walking a day, meandering through Torino’s many museums and palaces. At the Royal Palace, we gazed in awe as each room led to another more magnificent, more opulent, more gilded than the last. My eyes hurt from soaking up all the wealth the Royal House of Savoy family once enjoyed.
Having observed that Italians don’t drink giant mugs of coffee, they throw back a swift shot of the stuff then go about their day, we followed suit. Which resulted in us mainlining museums like it was a race against time. We visited the Royal Armoury, The Infinity Museum, the Museo Egizio - a museum that delves into the unique and complex united history of Italy and Egypt. It’s not for the faint hearted and displays warning signs before some exhibitions, because mummified corpses await. But we found it to be educational rather than crass.
By the time we took a taxi out of the city to visit Palazzina di Caccia Stupinigi (once yet another residence for the Savoy family - they needed somewhere to get away to at weekends, the poor dears) I’d seen so much Baroque grandeur I was getting blasé. Until I entered the ballroom. As I stood beneath a chandelier bigger than my house, I could feel all the people who’d ever danced in that room before me. I would have been speechless, but, lots of coffee.
Our first dinner was at L’orto Gia Salsamentaria, where chef Eduardo greeted us with an enthusiastic smile and an impressive menu.
We ate figs stuffed with cashew, spirulina and mint nut-cheese, topped with flax, sunflower and chia seed wafers, babaganoush, fennel tarts and gnocchi (why doesn’t my gnocchi taste this good back home? I chuck it in water and lob pesto on top - surely it’s the same!)
The next evening we visited Chiodi Latini, an expensive, seven course fine dining experience. The chef flamboyantly described every course to us in Italian, while the waiter tried desperately to translate. At one point the chef brought out a tupperware box full of green leaves, which he thrust towards my unwilling mouth. Startled, I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to sniff the scent or nibble the leaf straight from the chef’s hand.
From there we headed to Gorilla, a vegan cocktail bar with stylish wall-art and a trendy cocktail list. Warmed by rum, we wandered the streets arm in arm like a pair of young(ish) Italian lovers. People dined so late I’d usually be in bed, their meals long, their wine flowing. Children played in the street, groups of millennials gathered, no doubt discussing existential, philosophical subjects. Couples ordered gelato. Well, this couple did. Excited as we were to find a “senza lattosio” (dairy free) vendor.
To our delight, the Infinity Exhibition was still open despite the fact it was well passed 9pm. We spent the next two hours in the company of Albert Einstein and friends, wondering at the marvels of the universe and all the clever people who’d worked out all the clever stuff. I could barely get passed the fact I was in a museum at 11pm, let alone quantum physics.
We’d read great things about Soul Kitchen but it was extremely busy and felt more vegan-for-the-locals than vegan-for-the-tourists-who-can’t-even-speak-Italian.
But my creamy mushroom spaghetti was delicious and I did learn a few Italian words. My favourite was ‘scusi’ (sorry) because it sounded like they’d taken ‘excuse me’ and snazzed it up. I’m still saying it to this day when I bump into people. It’s very handy.
It fell on me to organise our final day. Dangerous territory - my husband is a meticulous researcher and I like to leave all the homework up to him so I can kick back and drink espressos. But, I was determined to improve on my last attempt to take charge, an attempt so rubbish we still hark back to Windsor as the benchmark of how not to plan a weekend. I needed to usurp Windsor so I could say to my husband, remember Turin? Remember that day I smashed it?
One vegan establishment we hadn’t yet ticked off was Ratatouille, which was a bit out of town but conveniently also on the way to Basilica di Superga, another magnificent building we wanted to stare at.
We walked along the river, arriving at Ratatouille’s shop / deli / restaurant famished. For brunch we ordered from the scrumptious pick and mix menu, followed by blueberry cheesecake. We continued our stroll along the river, watching autumnal leaves dance their way to the ground, before boarding a tram which delivered us up a winding hill to the Superga. We congratulated ourselves on all the milage by stopping off at Ratatouille again on the way back for hot chocolate and custard tarts.
Next on my itinerary was the National Museum of Cinema. The first floor took us through the early pioneers of filmmaking. So much creative thought has been put into this museum. It was a mesmerising journey through the evolution of film, there were interactive rooms built like scenes from iconic films and a huge area for lounging in recliners in front of a giant screen. Plus, cool gift shop.
We had such a superb day that "Remember Windsor?" - still a noose around my neck - was finally usurped. "Remember Turin?" I can now say, when proof is needed that I can make good plans. Admittedly, Gaz organised everything but this one day, but the point is, remember that one day I organised that was really bloody brilliant?