Posts Tagged ‘Italian chocolate’

Al BicerinI came to Piazza la Consolata in Turin, Italy, because I had to taste a famous drink. Il bicerin is served at what may be the smallest cafe in Italy, a cozy place with 8 tables (double that in summer, when more are set outside on the old stone piazza). Caffe Al Bicerin opened in 1763, and not much has changed since then. Same counter and wrought iron, same kinds of pastries and chocolates. The shop windows and shleves are filled with jars of sweets, as they were more than 2 centuries ago, when aristocratic women swept in on Sundays after mass to refresh themselves. Like them, like Dumas, Nietzsche, Puccini, and Count Cavour (Council president of the first united Italian il biceringovernment) before me, I’m sitting at a marble-topped table and sipping something sublime. The mixture of espresso, chocolate, and cream is divinely rich, thick, and delicious. The cold layer of cream rests on the hot chocolate and coffee and I’m told you never stir it in, but drink the chocolate through the cream, mixing hot and cold, dwelling on each flavor as it slides over the tongue. You can get other drinks here, including teas, frappes, spumante, and Barolo, but I’ll come back for the bicerin.

If you need more consoling after that experience, cross the piazza to what I consider the most beautiful church interior in a city full of gorgeous churches and monuments. Santuario Basilica La Consolata is jaw-dropping splendid. Designed by architects Guarini and Juvarri in the 17th century, it combines Baroque and Italian Rococo styles. The Romanesque tower that was part of a previous church still stands on the right side of the Basilica. There’s a gorgeous marble floor and a high altar, dating from 1714, that is lavish with silver, marble, carvings and gilt. On one side stands a lovely silver Madonna and Child; this figure is paraded through Turin every June in recognition of the Virgin’s protection of the city. Most moving to me is a wall on a lower level that holds a huge ex-voto collection. These are drawings made by people asking for help or giving thanks for a miracle, whether it’s a motorcycle accident, an overturned tractor, a hospital scene, a battlefield, or other misery. It’s enough to make you light a candle and go have another bicerin.

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