Breakfast of Kings

We’re in lovely Augusta Taurinorum, aka Turin, first capital of the kingdom of Italy and birthplace of gianduja, the martini, Lavazza, and bicerin, among other things, and home to Nietzsche and the Shroud of Turin. This storied city traces its origin to a mythological drunken bull who defeated a dragon (a simplification, but that’s basically the story). These days there’s a famous bull on the sidewalk outside Caffe Torino whose balls you kick for good luck. Gotta love the Italians!

We arrived rather late at night but headed straight out for a tasting menu and a bottle of wine at a nearby restaurant. This would become a pattern, as the wine is amazing and affordable, and everything on the menu is good. Before you know it, it’s past midnight and you’re drunkenly meandering your way back to the hotel with a full belly, admiring how the piazzas come alive at night, buzzing with people and glowing with lights.

We took a free tour of the city in the morning, walking around the city center for the better part of three hours, getting historical insights and anecdotes along the way. I highly recommend this tour if you’re in Turin, and you can’t beat the price. After the tour, we took a long lunch in a quiet bistro across from the Corpus Domini church and right under a pierced building (see gallery). Another architectural quirk of the city are the random cannonballs half-buried in the walls of some buildings, placed there to commemorate a siege (honestly wasn’t paying attention to the guide at that moment). Pretty soon it was time for aperol spritzes next to the river Po, then a quick rest before wandering to find dinner. After about an hour of searching, we settled on a restaurant right around the corner from our hotel. There’s no more civilized and pleasant way to spend an evening than to share a bottle of wine over dinner outside in a gorgeous piazza. We stayed for a few hours, and as the temperature began to drop precipitously, the waiter came by to drape a fleece blanket around my shoulders. What service!

The next day I decided to wander around aimlessly, mostly covering areas we hadn’t explored on the tour. I did have one mission: to bring back a bunch of gianduja chocolates. (If you’re not familiar with gianduja, think Baci and Ferrero Rocher to get a sense of the flavor. This chocolate-hazelnut combo is my desert island flavor. Absolutely delicious.) Luckily, gianduja is ubiquitous here, so I only needed to quickly duck into the first confetteria I saw to get a pretty bag of the triangular delights to bring home. I also wanted to try┬ábicerin, the so-called breakfast of kings. But as I chatted about it with Michael – it’s hot chocolate, espresso, and whipped cream in layers – he burst my bubble by pointing out that it was really just a mocha that I could get at any Starbucks back home. And they’re quite expensive here, like 6 euros. Breakfast of kings, indeed. So I passed on that.

We perform tonight at the Teatro Reggio. I’ve been seeing banners all over the city for the festival we’re a part of, so hopefully the Turinos will give us a chance. If not, we’ll have the opportunity to try again two days later in Milan!

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