What a whirlwind of a week since I’ve been back in Italy. While most of it has been spent cleaning my apartment and running errands around town, there have been moments of rest like a jaunt to Vercelli for risotto and a weekend getaway in Aosta. Another small victory was also to be celebrated and what better place to do that than at Caffè Al Bicerin.
My mom and I have been waiting for news on our citizenship for way too long. Luckily for me, since I’ve been residing in Italy for over a year, this happened to speed the process of being officially recognized as a citizen. After a bunch of emails and phone calls, I stopped by the Ufficio dell’Anagrafe to confirm my status and see what could be done about getting my carta d’identità—a document that’s vital for anyone living in Europe as it also acts as a stand-in passport when travelling to other EU countries.
Lucky for me, I was able to snag a walk-in appointment and receive my identity card, which seemed like an impossible feat for so long. Now all that’s left is to go and get my passport, which means gathering some more documents, standing in more long lines and crossing my fingers (as usual). In the meantime, naturally, I had to celebrate the success of my confirmed italianità.
Al Bicerin is located in a hidden piazza within Torino’s Quadrilatero, right next door to another one of my absolute favourite bars: Smile Tree. It’s also just a stone’s throw away from a bunch of great restaurants and aperitivo spots.
The coffee shop actually gets its name from the signature drink invented here: the Bicerin. Giuseppe Dentis first opened the coffeehouse in 1763, but its popularity soared following the creation of the decadent drink. A riff on the bavareisa made with coffee, chocolate and syrup, the Bicerin instead consists of careful layers of espresso, chocolate and cream.
An iconic beverage to order when visiting Al Bicerin, you’re definitely going to want to order a Bicerin—and maybe a chocolate croissant or plate of fresh-made biscotti. When the ladies of the café deliver the glass goblet to you, you’ll most definitely be cautioned not to stir it. Simply sip and enjoy. As you drink the beverage, the flavours will evolve and change into a super rich delight. While it’s a bit reminiscent of a mocha, the Bicerin is sort of in a category of its own. What can I say? You definitely need to try it to understand it. It’s probably one of the most iconic things that you can do in Torino.
Given the café’s location across the street from the Santuario della Consolata, churchgoers would often stop by after mass for a post-service pick-me-up. But that’s not all, Al Bicerin was a meeting place for Count Camillo Benso di Cavour, who led the movement towards the unification of Italy in the mid 19th century.
Interestingly, Al Bicerin continued to be revolutionary for another reason. While the café was owned and frequented by business men, management soon fell into the hands of women, which deemed it a respectable place for women to visit alone in public.
Managed by the Cavalli sisters, they were eventually succeeded by Maritè Costa who inherited their legacy. Transforming the humble coffee shop into an international sensation, under her direction, Al Bicerin has been deemed a symbol of Torino, recognized by outlets like the magazine, Gambero Rosso. Many celebrities have also been known to pay a visit to Al Bicerin, most recently, Stanley Tucci.
A word to the wise, while you might see fancy glass bottles labelled Bicerin being sold in shop windows, that refers to something a bit different: a chocolate liquor. Torino is extremely famous for their gianduiotti chocolates (bite-size hazelnut chocolates), which is why you’ll likely see lots of chocolate-flavoured goods around town. If you’re looking for souvenir chocolate, try: Baratti & Milano, La Bottega di Guido Gobino, or Pfatisch.
One thing is for sure, you’re not going to want to miss Al Bicerin. Combining all the whimsy of Italy and Torino, specifically, this caffè is quaint and classy. It’ll make you feel like you’re tasting a bit of history and that’s what I think is exceptionally unique about Al Bicerin. Have you checked out this spot?