Caffe San Carlo

July 8, 2010 / Food & Wine
Torino, Piemonte
sancarlo1Apparently, Henry James claimed that Turin is not a city to make a fuss about. He couldn’t have been more wrong.

The capital city of the Piemonte region, it is rich in culture and history, enhanced by its elegant piazzas (each with an impassioned equestrian monument) and its palaces in the style of Versailles. It was Italy’s first capital city and home to the Savoia, Italy’s once royal family. It is also one of the great industrial centers of Italy.

sancarlo4And then there is the food. Elegant shops selling specialties of Piemonte abound: cheese shops, wine sellers, bakers, chocolate shops….and the cafes.

An excellent way to begin exploring Torino is by visiting one of its cafes. Walking along the arcaded streets and squares of the historic center, one can find many. One such establishment is the Caffé San Carlo (Piazza San Carlo 156). It boasts a sumptuous interior complete with rococo gilded and mirrored walls embellished with marble and lined with pastry filled glass cases: all crowned by a colossal chandelier. This is one of the most famous of the old cafes and was frequented in the past by intellectuals and patriots of the Risorgimento who met here to plan the unification of Italy. It was the first Italian café to use gaslight, and lit in this way must have been very beautiful indeed.

A perfect place to fortify oneself before setting out to discover some of the wonderful cheese shops, delicatessens and bakeries of Torino!



Patricia Glee Smith

by Patricia Glee Smith

Accomplished artist and very involved archaeology aficionado based in Otricoli, Umbria. Click here to view her artwork.

16 Responses to “Caffe San Carlo”

  1. Joseph S, Sommovigo

    Fantastic architecture and I wish I had crowm moullding that looked like that in my house

  2. Lenore Chicka

    I don’t know, looks scrumptious to me. You can look, but
    sometimes you don’t see. True the west and south of the city
    is not very pretty with all the industries spread out, but go
    north and to the east and you’ll be walking along the PO River,
    you’ll see spacious green pastures and snow-capped mountains.
    Beautiful. Looks like Henry James just didn’t go to the right
    places. :)

  3. Joseph D. Spano
    Joseph D. Spano

    one place unmentioned is a small cafe owned by Tiber Spano, a transplant from Puglia . He operates and owns the only truly organic cibo italiani in Turino, try it next time

  4. Gian Banchero

    Don’t not look like no McDonald’s too me!! Betcha the coffee’s better!!
    The joy of experiencing establishments with decors such as Caffe’ San Carlo’s is that they improve ones intellect and civility 100%, they provide a quiet/peacefull stage for intellegent conversation, reading, or distancing oneself from the hurly burly of the frenetic life outside its doors, plus lack the noise and distractions that a lot of new “hip” cafes and eateries now offer. Notice the gentleman reading at the table, I envy what he’s experiencing; oh, to find and experience here in California a non-garish “modern” cafe’ where there are no kitchen sounds and no radio blaring Lady Gaga. Thank you for the article and photos Patricia!!

  5. Joan Schmelzle

    And then there is the famous coffee-chocolate-cream drink at the Bicherin (spelling??). I certainly remember it fondly as well as the hot chocolate at a small bar near the royal palace where it stayed on a spoon almost like chocolate pudding. Movie museum anyone? (Sorry I can’t think of the “real” name.)

  6. fantastico! I want to go and see it, now through your eyes! Thanks.

    Did you see any traces of witches or wizards during your visit? Are they well known and visited on trips to Turin — or is it just my friends ? !

  7. Pat Smith
    Pat Smith

    To Joseph D. Spano: Unfortunately, there isn’t space to write about all the wonderful cafes (anywhere in Italy, for that matter). But I went to many cafes during my week’s stay in Torino. I will look up the Spano cafe next time I go to Torino (soon, I hope).

    To Joan Schmelze: The Museo Nazionale diCinema at the Mole Antonelliana. Great museum! And I agree; the Bicerin is also wonderful.

  8. WE got back from our first visit to Torino a couple of months ago. Fantastic! Your article makes me want to go right back.

  9. patricia

    I agree 100%. Torino is a beautiful, elegant city and its cafés bring you back in time when life was liveable!

  10. I looked up Patricia Glee Smith and was astonished at her virtuosity. A wonderful, brilliant painter in many mediums (not media) – oils, drawings and best of all, tempera. Have a look!

  11. This article contains places I would like to visit if and when I ever get to Italy. And believe me, get is the verb I need. Beause I have had this desire inside me to visit that wonderful country since I was very young. I read and watch everything I can about Italy. My friends give me calendars, books and maps of Italy for Christmas and Birthday gifts. Someday soon, I hope.

  12. Pat Smith
    Pat Smith

    to Beatrice Ford:
    I read the reviews, and was surprised to see the comments. When I was there people were perfectly courteous, my cappuccino very good, and it was NOT dirty. The Torinese are generally reserved. If people want to be fawned over, they are in the wrong city!

  13. Paolo C123

    To Beatrice Ford,
    I just discovered this webside and in the contrary, if you have the chance to stop in Turin I would strongly recommend you do not miss to stop at Cafe Torino.
    I was born and raised in the city, with University school as well.
    So as a reminder, Turin was the first Capital of Italy in 1861 this means a lot of history behind its curtains.
    Thank you Patricia for letting people know about this remarkable and historical city.

  14. Lynn at Southern Fried French

    We LOVE Torino. I’ve only peeked in at this caffe, must go back.
    If you didn’t click on patricia’s artwork link above, you must! It’s absolutely stunning.


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