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Porta Palazzo: Around the World in a Square

Interested in exploring Turin’s rich multicultural history and current cross-cultural experiences? A perfect place to start is a walking tour through Porta Palazzo and the surrounding neighborhood, which hosts Europe’s largest open-air market seven days a week.

Porta Palazzo is a world of its own. Covering 10,000 square meters, it is composed of over 1,000 stalls where over 60 languages can be heard spoken by vendors and visitors alike. Each week over 100,000 people come to the market to buy all sorts of goods, from fresh produce to clothing, home goods and even toys. The variety and quantity of goods is overwhelming to the senses: the scents of a fishing port in Southern Italy, the fragrant spices of the Middle East and Asia, fruit from South America and vegetables from Africa.


Meet your bilingual tour guides (one from Romania and one from Italy) at Galleria Umberto I (which was the site of a hospital for 300 years, before being transformed into a commercial arcade in the 1860s). Next, move on to a specialty ingredients store owned and operated by a woman who emigrated here from Madagascar 19 years ago. She had difficulty finding work on arrival, and discovered that Italian markets lacked a lot of ingredients from her homeland. Thus, she began importing ingredients from Madagascar, including the much sought after Bourbon vanilla beans which her family produces in Madagascar. She was able to open the shop to a wider audience and now carries spices from all over the world. In addition, she hosts workshops in her shop and uses her income to help support 600 children in Madagascar. She has received many awards and has also been nominated for Most Successful Businesswomen for her work and success. In October, her shop will carry the Slow Food Presidium product Alaotra Lake Ancient Rice, after it has been harvested.

After hearing this uplifting success story, move outside and begin the immersion into the vast worlds contained within Porta Palazzo. Allow your eyes, nose, and ears to be inundated with the colors of the fresh produce, the voices of vendors and customers, and the scents wafting and mixing through the air. You will see familiar items like squash in a stand alongside foreign objects such as the prickly pear. After a brief stroll, head towards the Ceni shop, owned and operated by the Ceni family since 1963. With over 100 varieties of dried legumes, rice and grains, including some Slow Food Presidia items, they have something for everyone. They recently won a prize from Slow Food for their continuous search to find the most flavorful ingredients in the world. Walk past the fish market, through the stalls of clothes, accessories, bags, and home goods and arrive at an indoor shopping mall. Although a
nondescript building from the outside, once inside you will discover the ancient “ice houses.” These deep huts were dug in the 18th century and served as the storing place for ice that was carried down from the Alps and then sold to the Torinese. These ice houses were in active use until the 1950s when at-home refrigeration became widespread.

Next walk through the indoor food market L’Antica Tettoia dell’Orologica (often known simply as the Clock Market), which was built in 1916. Inside are butcher stalls showcasing cured meats and freshly baked bread. On the outside walls of the Clock Market, there is a message in several languages: “Love the difference.” Twhatsapp-image-2016-09-24-at-6-39-54-pm-1his serves as an example of Torino’s efforts to promote intercultural communication, exchange and acceptance among their diverse immigrant groups. By having so many different communities represented in Porta Palazzo and its neighboring areas, Torino gives immigrants access to their indigenous ingredients. This allows them to cook and celebrate with the flavors and foods of their homeland. As our Romanian tour guide said, “We can cook food for our souls.”

To continue to diversify the experience, a third tour guide from Morocco leads the group. Moroccans were one of the first immigrant communities to settle in Turin and today there are over 18,000 living legally in the city and many more without papers. Due to their strict dietary guidelines surrounding meat consumption, Moroccans introduced Islamic halal butchers to Turin. These traditional butchers sell more than just meat, providing customers with typical supermarket staples, glasses and servingware, and the typical terracotta tagines in which many Moroccan dishes are prepared. They also sell important Moroccan spices, particularly saffron threads, and the famous Argan oil.

The final stop on the tour is to the farmers market, where you will find local Piedmontese farmers selling their seasonal fruit and vegetables directly to the public.

This tour will also be held on:

Friday 23rd from 10:00-12:00

Saturday 24th from 10:00-12:00

Sunday 25th from 10:00-12:00

Monday 26th from 10:00-12:00

Meeting at Galleria Umberto I and walking through Porta Palazzo and the surrounding neighborhood.

By Claire Ryan for Slow Food International


An Event by
 Città di Torino
 Slow Food
 Regione Piemonte
In collaboration with
With the contribution of
Official Partners
Supporters of the Terra Madre Foundation and Slow Food
With the support of

Terra Madre Salone del Gusto
Slow Food Promozione P.Iva 02220020040
© Terra Madre Salone del Gusto 2016 - All rights reserved