Although Belgium is famous the world over for chocolate, Turin is often forgotten despite being its iconic role in chocolate creation. Turin is the birthplace of the chocolate bar and chocolate lovers will be in chocolate heaven in Piedmont, which has a long history of chocolate making. This chocolate lover’s guide to the best chocolate in Turin will discuss the history of chocolate, what chocolate to buy in Torino, and the best chocolatiers in Turin.
History of chocolate in Turin
Shortly after Spain colonized the New World, chocolate was sent back as one of the first spoils of war. In the Mayan and Aztec civilizations, cacao was typically drunk by the elites. Hernan Cortés introduced this drink to the Spanish royals, who began quickly obsessed with cacao. As early as 1585, the trans-Atlantic chocolate trade began.
One notable event that brought chocolate to Italy is when the Duke of Savoy, Charles I, married Catherine, the daughter of the Spanish King. Her connection with Spain made it possible to introduce chocolate to Italy. At this time, vanilla and sugar were sometimes added to make the drink sweeter.
One notable change was the introduction of the Merenda Reale, which was introduced by Anne of Austria. This process involves mixing water and cocoa powder to create a rich chocolatey drink similar to hot chocolate! This is often a drink that you would have in the afternoon and early evening. Later on, delicious Italian pastries were consumed by dipping them into the drinks! (Today, you can still sample this at Pepino.)
In 1678, the first chocolate house (with royal permission!) opened in Turin run by Giò Antonio Battista Ari. Turin quickly became a chocolate powerhouse as hot chocolate (often called cioccolata calda in Italian) spread in popularity across Europe. (You can still find this at many cafes in Turin!)
Quite a few innovations by chocolatiers made it possible to produce more chocolate, including a machine to mix vanilla and sugar with cacao paste. (Most of Italy’s chocolate is still made in the Piedmont region!)
It’s often argued at the first chocolate bar originated in Turin although it looks quite different than what we’re used to. During the Napoleonic wars, Turin had difficulty getting enough cacao to create its rich chocolates, so hazelnut was added to chocolate to thicken up the mixture. They struck gold. This mixture is called Gianduja, which is a delicious chocolate spread with 30% hazelnut paste. It’s said that the chocolatier Caffarel invented this and named it after a Carnival character representing Piedmont. It’s typical to see Gianduja as an oval shape sheet filled with hazelnuts within Turin’s chocolatiers. (Chocolate shops will typically cut you a piece with a size of your choosing!)
The most famous chocolate from Turin has to be the gianduiotto. This delicious chocolate named after the mask of Piedmont has a slight boat shape that was produced with a spoon. It is made with hazelnuts, cocoa, and sugar. You can easily find gianduiotto in Turin at its elite chocolatiers and the supermarkets.
Another notable chocolate innovation from Turin has to be in Bicerin, which is a blend of milk, chocolate, milk, and sugar. It was invented in Turin and became popular throughout the city during 1700s. Although certain cafes are more famous for Bicerin, it’s fairly easy to find bicerin at many cafes around the city. There’s even a vegan version at Miagola Cat Cafe.
In nearby Alba, Nutella was invented in 1946 by a pastry chef trying to create a chocolate cream for children. The mixture melted into a delicious cream…and the rest is history. Although not everyone necessarily knows Turin for its place in the chocolate world, almost everyone has heard of Nutella. (You can find similar versions made by local farmers that are just as delectable!)
Chocolate in Turin today
Turin remains a chocolate powerhouse and chocolate lovers will need to create their own tour of the best chocolatiers in Turin. Luckily, most have shops spread throughout the city center, which makes it easy to create your own self-guided chocolate tour. Of course, it is also possible to take a guided chocolate tour of Turin if you want a bit more expert guidance! (Keep scrolling for the best chocolatiers in Turin.)
For Bicerin, many rave about Cafe Al bicerin, which is supposed to be the place where bicerin was created. However, they charge a lot more than other cafes for this drink. It’s very easy to find bicerin through Turin For those looking for a lactose-free version, I recommend Miagola Cat Cafe for a fantastic drink!
Similarly, you’ll find numerous cafes that serve hot chocolate Turin-style to give you an idea of the chocolate craze that swept Europe in the 1700s. Look for cioccolata calda on the menu and ask if it is served with biscuits. (Otherwise, buy a couple to dip into the sweet drink for the authentic experience!) I got a hot chocolate also at Miagola Cat Cafe, which was incredibly indulgent.
The best chocolatiers in Turin
These are the best chocolatiers in Turin. I handpicked some of the best known based on my husband’s recommendations from his time living in Turin as well as some newer favorites. Most Italians that we’ve asked say that Guido Gobino is their favorite although one of the winemakers we met in the Piedmont region said that Guido Castagna was her favorite. You’ll have to taste them all and judge for yourself. (My husband recommends skipping Stratta.)
Caffarel gets the credit for inventing the gianduiotto, Turin’s delicious iconic chocolate that just seems to melt in your mouth. This chocolatier dates back to 1826. Today their chocolate made bean to bar (or chocolate), so you can trust the quality to be good. They have numerous shops all throughout the city as well as Italy. You’ll want to look for the Gianduia 1865, which harkens back to the creation of this iconic chocolate!
I recommend getting a mixture of coffee, classic (hazelnut), and dark chocolate if you come here. I personally prefer the classic variety, however my friend loves the coffee Gianduia.
My husband’s favorite chocolatier in Turin has to be Guido Gobino, which is the favorite of many Piedmontese people we met. This chocolatier, known for their experimental chocolate. Unlike some of the older Turin chocolatiers, Gobino is focused more on quality rather than tradition strictly. His high-quality giandujotto are to-die-for. I especially loved his unusual chocolates, including the Barolo chocolate. They work bean-to-bar with hand-picked farmers.
Cioccolateria di Guido Castagna
Another award-winning chocolatier has to be Guido Castagna. This Piedmont chocolatier (with a factory outside of Turin). This family-run chocolatier started in 1897, however, they have adapted their chocolate making to modern-day ethics. This Torino chocolatier is the favorite of the winemaker that we met in the Piedmont region. Unlike other chocolatiers, chocolate here is matured at least six months after being produced by hand. It has won numerous awards with good reason!
Cioccolato Peyrano dal 1915
One of Torino’s most famous chocolatiers has to be Peyrano. For the authentic experiences, head to Corso Moncalieri for their distinctive shop that has existed for many years. This chocolatier is known for supplying the Italian Royals with their chocolate and even during WWII, the family kept the store going. The chocolate is as delicious as it is famous.
Grezzo Raw Chocolate* (vegan)
Vegans can also enjoy Turin’s chocolate! For vegan chocolate, head to Grezzo Raw Chocolate. This newer chocolate brand created by a businessman and a master chef creates its chocolate without gluten, soy, refined sugar, and dairy.
Pastry Gustavo Pfatisch
We had to mention G. Pfautsch, which is another local favorite! Their 100-year-old cafe sits in the same place and it’s a great place to try pastries as well as chocolates.