Even the best travelers fall from time to time into the “accidental tourist” category (reference to Anne Tyler’s 1985 novel about travelers who wish they were at home), when a chic short espresso just doesn’t compare to an alto Starbuck’s macchiato, nor a traditional Napolitano wood-fired pizza to a greasy slice of Domino’s. There are a few places around Turin that appease the occasional longing for our United States. I’m not talking about the Golden Arches – although there is a McDonald’s at the edge of Piazza Castello, if that’s your fix – but an English-American pub where the international staff speak fluent and friendly English; an English bookstore; a multi-level shopping center complete with megaplex movie theater; and a fantastic to-go soup joint that recalls such healthy options as Fresh Choice or Panera.
English-American Pub in Turin
If you crave a hefty cheeseburger with all the fixin’s… try the 1870 Huntsman Pub on Corso Vittorio Emmanuele II, 43. Located just a stone’s throw away from central train station Porta Nuova, The 1870 offers a fine spread of English and American dishes, in addition to typical Italian plates. The rich dark wood interior, all black and brass and cushioned bench seats, makes it both cozy and grand. The establishment is broken into several sections – pool tables, bar, restaurant, sports center – each one clean and cheery. Jacket potatoes, or a hot dog? Check. Amstel light, Budweiser, Guinness? Check, check and check. A thai curry entrée goes for 8,50 euro; small blond beer, 4,50. The weekend crowd varies from local Italians to international university students, and gets pretty jovial in the wee hours. Open from 11,00 until 05,00. I came in with a friend of mine one Saturday afternoon, and in a few minutes we’d struck up conversation with an Irish au pair who took the train in from a neighboring city to watch her rugby team play on the big screen. A pair of English men here on business jumped in from across the room, as they were cheering for the other team, and as we all heartily toasted beers I momentarily forgot that I was in Italy…
English Book Store in Turin
Looking for Newsweek or The New York Times, in English? The Luxemburg International Bookshop on Via Cesare Battisti, 7, is right in the center, not far from Piazza San Carlo. The shop is stuffed to the brim with books, magazines and international newspapers, with an entire floor dedicated to English texts. When I went in search of an ESL textbook (they also specialize in teaching materials) I found the upstairs salesgirl to be polite without smiling, and helpful but not overbearing. She spoke English, understood English, and, after a brief explanation of what I wanted to study, helped me find exactly the book I needed. Now that’s customer service! This historical bookshop is open all week, from Mon-Sat from 8 am until 7:30 pm, and on Sunday from 10 am to 1 pm, and from 3-7pm. (Barely) more information available at www.librerialuxemburg.com.
Shopping mall in Turin
However delightful, sometimes Italy’s fresh produce markets and tiny designer boutiques can get old. Sometimes a girl gets a hankering for a good ol’ American shopping mall with fluorescent lights, tiled shop floors, and packs of idle teenagers eating sour gummy candy out of cellophane bags. For a real Western shopping mall experience. Try Lingotto Torino, an enormous shopping center complete with a grocery store, stores of all sorts – clothes, lingerie, housewares, special foods – and the Pathè multiplex cinema showing all the latest films (in Italian, unfortunately, but with an oversized tub of yellow popcorn you can pretend you’re at the neighborhood AMC). Reachable from the center by bus lines 1, 18, or 35.
Soup Restaurant in Turin
For a take- away lunch that isn’t pizza, focaccia, or one of the slightly depressing tiny panini (sandwiches) you find crouching pathetically in the plastic case at any café, visit this delicious soup restaurant on Via San Dalmazzo, 8/a, right off of main tourist drag Via Garibaldi. The blackboard outside the store lists the three features soups, each with a little hand-drawn flag denoting its place of origin. When I visited I had a Guinness soup from Germany, and it was incredible! Most of the staff speak English; in fact, when the man at the cashier heard me remark to my friend about the art inside the store, he offered to personally escort us to the neighboring gallery to see more. The cafeteria-style layout of this hip joint gives you the control, contrary to traditional Italian restaurants, to choose: make-it-yourself salad, one of three hearty soups made fresh daily, and/or a side of rice, barley or bread. With a drink, coffee and dessert one can eat a healthy and delicious lunch for 11 euro, and feel like she’s back in Colorado again. Check out www.soupandgo.com for more photos of the place, and info about their yummy soup.
Photo of American hot dog by TheBusyBrain