Thursday, April 20, 2017

Bicciolani from Vercelli

Piedmont is famous for its many local cookies, some expanded over the regional borders and have acquired a national recognition becoming regulars on all Italian tables, others are still pretty much connected to their locality and you will find them only where they are produced.

artisan bicciolani

Bicciolani are THE Vercelli cookies. Vercelli is the European capital of rice and rice paddies, making it a unique natural area in the world, rich in biodiversity.
Originating during the Renaissance, Bicciolani were famous for their spice blend containing cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, coriander, white and black pepper. 
As the spice proportions were a secret, each baker and family came up with their own recipe and cookie version.
In a 17th century document, it is read that bicciolani were used as a payment for monatti - the city employees who transported the victims of the plague to the hospital or the cemetery. 

bicciolani by the Follis pastry shop

The bicciolani's father was Carlo Provinciale, a Vercelli pastry chef, who came up with his own recipe in 1803, making them with a shortcrust pastry rich in spices.
His family sold the recipe in the 20th century to another Vercelli pastry chef whose workshop closed in 1992. However, the original recipe was never disclosed and it is still a secret!

Their rich blend of spices made of bicciolani a favorite of the Savoy royal family already in 1831 when a special supply was given as a gift to Maria Anna, Princess of Savoy. In 1903, the Savoy family  officially declared bicciolani "a unique and fundamental heritage of the gastronomic culture of Piedmont".

Princess Anna Maria of Savoy
Vercelli Carnival mask

What does Bicciolani mean?
Bicciolani equals Vercelli, indicating both the cookies and the residents thanks to the carnival character of the town: Bicciolano, a man who at the end of the 18th century, stood up and led the revolt against the vexations of the local government.


  • white flour   200gr / slightly 2 cups
  • fine corn meal 50gr / 1/3 cup  
  • white sugar 70 gr/ 5.5 Tbs  
  • butter 200 gr/slighlty less than 1 cup 
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 cloves
  • a sprinkle of nutmeg
  • a sprinkle of white pepper
  • a pinch of salt
  • optional: a pinch of freshly grated organic lemon zest

Mix the white flour, the corn meal, the sugar, the grated lemon zest and a pinch of salt. Add the cold butter cut into cubes and choose if you want to add the spices all at once or separated to make cookies of different flavors.

If you prefer to mix all the spices together, make the dough into a ball and wrap in plastic.
If you go for cookies of different flavors: make many tiny balls, each one with their own spice blend
and wrap in plastic.
The bicciolani dough(s) must rest for about 1h in the fridge.

Roll the cookie dough down, cut 10cm long rectangles and place them on a greased cookie sheet.
Make the ridges with a fork and bake at 180C/356F for 10 minutes.

Besides tea, the bicciolani spicy soul makes them a perfect match for:

- Malvasia both Castelnuovo Don Bosco and di Casorzo
- raisinated wines like Erbaluce Passito
- meditation wines (Port and Sherry)
- rose' wines like Alta Langa Rose'

As always, cookies are among the most delicious souvenir and easily create the local atmosphere wherever you are in the world! 

Friday, April 7, 2017

bull fountains

Small green fountains with the bull head - toret in the local dialect, are one of the Turin's symbols together with Mole Antonelliana and gianduiotti chocolates.

To the residents torets and bull emblems are truly a synonym of Torino (yes, bull) and they keep their cultural uniqueness despite sharing the analogy with corrida and Spain.

Italians call Turin: Torino, a name given by the Romans back in the 1 A.C. when they got up here to extend their dominion. 
Torino is actually short of (Civitas) Augusta Taurinorum or "city founded by the emperor Augustus inhabited by the Gauls (Asterix's neighbors) of the Taurini tribe".
The Taurini tribe was a Celtic popultion who lived on the mountains and raised bulls. This is the origin of our city name and how its meaning quickly became its logo: a bull.

Above a door in Via Garibaldi 
Toret literally means little bull because these green fountains are small in size and spread all over the city to allow many public quenching opportunities.  
They are made in cast iron or stone, and the first toret was installed in 1862. Today, we have about 800 of these green bull fountains all around the city and you can still see them when strolling downtown, in gardens and in the market areas.

In Piazza Bernini in 2013
Originally, the water they spitted came directly from Pian della Mussa where the water is so pure that even NASA flies it in the outer space and the Chinese import it! Unfortunately today they are connected to the city water main that blends the spring water with the artesian water and a fraction of purified water from the Po river in Turin.

Golden bull and deer fountain in Venaria (suburb)
Residents particularly cherish these tiny bull fountains because they are linked to childhood memories, specific moments in their lives (everybody really drinks from them!!) and above all, they are just too cute!!

Since 2011 there is even iToret the iPhone app to locate the closest toret to you and since 2012 people can adopt a toret through

Via San Tommaso

Now you know it: when planning your trip over to Turin, adopt a toret and download iToret on your smartphone so that when you finally get over here, you know where to refill your water bottle, take a selfie and what to look for as a souvenir besides chocolates and wines 😎

To live our vidaroyal, plan your trip with us:

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Camporelli aka Pavesini

Each Italian town has its own cookie and camporelli are Novara's cookies or biscottini (tiny cookies).
Coming from the Milan Malpensa airport, driving or riding the train toward Turin, you go through Novara, also known as the gorzonzola cheese hub.

Camporelli are among the few cookies or biscotti that go through a double "cooking" (baking) - bis-cottatura process.

eggs, sugar and flour

Friday, March 24, 2017

Gobino's chocolate factory

We have already told you how Turin has been the European chocolate capital since 1600 but we have never shared with you how cool the Gobino's chocolate factory is πŸ’

the Gobino factory is in Turin and the neighborhood perfumes of chocolate!
For all foodies and especially chocolate lovers, Turin is the best place on earth because the chocolate factory is open for visits and tastings! However, be warned!! This is a real working factory and therefore it is closed to the visitors during the high chocolate seasons like Easter and the pre-Christmas time; naturally, as the Gobino chocolate is natural and it gets spoiled by the hot weather, only some ingredients are produced and worked in the summer.

We took advantage of a friend's visit and after begging Signor Gobino, he kindly accepted to let us do a short visit due to the super busy Easter season. Consider that the chocolate factory produces up to 12,000 chocolate Easter eggs - yes the large Italian Easter chocolate eggs, of many shapes and chocolates and each and everyone with a surprise!
... all 12k in Via Cagliari 15/b in Turin!!

Mr Gobino put us in the lovely care of Loredana Ligori, one of his honorary Oompa Loompa to who we owe many thanks for all the fun we had!! Thank you, Loredana!!

Because chocolate making is a very serious and delicate business, we covered our clothes, shoes and hair before starting our tour of the factory Loredana showed us all the production phases from the cocoa bean cleaning to the gianduiotti wrapping.

With energy saving and ecological machinery, the cocoa beans get cleaned, toasted and chopped; their wastes become fertilizer.
The finely chopped cocoa beans become a smooth cream at very high temperature. Unfortunately, this is still quite rough and bitter.
Here though, we saw the hazelnut oil press, because the Gobino chocolate only contains natural hazelnut oil. This is a very healthy and expansive oil used to make the Gobino chocolate spreads and the cremino chocolates, one Turin's staple chocolates.

velevety cremino
As we were moving room, we peek through one where some Oompa Loompas were hand wrapping the large Easter chocolate eggs!!

the choco egg wrapping is a super delicate and crafty task!

When the cocoa powder is ready, it gets mixed with cocoa butter to make gianduiotti - the upside down boat shaped chocolates born right off the Turin's chocolate masters' spatula in 1865. Gianduiotto was the very first wrapped chocolate.

Gobino's Tourinot: a piece of heaven!
At Gobino's the chocolate paste gets massaged for 14h to allow all the wonderful chocolatey scents to be released and to allow the bitter acid components to evaporate.

opening the eggs to insert the surprise

Today, the machines take care of all the extenuating mechanical part of the production, however, Signor Gobino hires Oompa Loompas to perform all the precision and delicate jobs like getting the chocolate eggs out of the mold, inserting the surprises, sealing and wrapping.

each tiny egg has a different filling: purple means raspberry and black vanilla
Signor Gobino together with his highly skilled team of creative Oompa Loompas always come up with many new delicious products that you get to taste when you go on a tour of the chocolate factory or do a chocolate tasting at the chocolate boutique or bottega in Via Lagrange 1, in downtown Turin, right in front of the Egyptian Museum.

So after our tour, we did the chocolate tasting with a symphony of natural fruit jellies covered in chocolate, delish candied ginger covered in dark chocolate, coffee beans covered in chocolate, pure chocolate coins, the 4 stars: the cremini and the award-winner gianduiotti.

We sipped an espresso to wash our mouth and better appreciate all the textures and flavors.

The salt cremino and the dark chocolate covered ginger root just swooned us 😍

The salt crystals you can see in the picture are whole sea salt tiny crystals!

All Gobino chocolate but white is gluten free.
All Gobino dark chocolate is vegan.

When you visit Turin you just can't miss out on chocolate and you should always enjoy it with some Turin and Piedmont drinks. Besides coffee and gelato, the Gobino chocolates go hand in hand with vermouth, bubbly wines, rum and liqueurs!

In fact, Signor Gobino even makes a special praline Cocchi with the Cocchi vermouth!
The salt cremino pairs perfectly with all bubbly wines.
The 100% dark chocolate coins and the cocoa beans match raisinated wines (like Erbaluce passito), rum and liquors.

Signor Gobino with Lucia Hannau. Photo by Loredana Ligori

In Turin, we grew up eating high quality chocolate; we graduated from college thanks to our chocolate jar digging and Signor Gobino agrees with us in recommending a teaspoon of pure chocolate spread taken directly from the jar, once a day or more, according to the needs πŸ‘Œ
As it is artisan and totally made with natural ingredients, the Gobino chocolate spread is like a vitamin: you'll feel happier and more productive.
Naturally if you are on the go, you can substitute with a maximo +39 limited edition: a tiny luscious gianduiotto handmade with 29% of hazelnuts for good fatty acids! 

Check out your flight to Turin (TRN airport code), pay a visit to Signor Gobino at any of his locations: 
the chocolate factory in Via Cagliari 15/b
the bottega in Via Lagrange 1 after you visit the impressive Egyptian museum
in both places you can do the chocolate tasting!!

For your most serious chocolate cravings, visit the brand new shop in Corso Vittorio Emanuele II 72
For a box for your flight home, be reassured, you'll be able to buy a dose at the Turin airport shop too!

And don't despair because, many places around the world are now importing and selling the Gobino delicacies!

Special thanks to Signor Gobino who allowed us to his factory despite the heavy on going Easter productions and his precious time between important appointments, and to Loredana Ligori who delved us into the Gobino factory world!  

To plan a vida royal experience, e-mail:

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Turin rocks

If you have never heard of Turin or Torino and you have no clue about it, or if you haven't been here yet, after reading this post by our friends the independent people, Xavier and Valeriia, you will simply want to teleport here!

Xavier and Valeriia, a couple of cyclists, dancers and photographers explorers are living the expatriation experience, currently in England. On their mission to discover hidden or little-known spots of Europe and prove that there is no need to go too far for some genuine treasures. You can read them on their blog Independent People and follow their adventures on Twitter and Instagram

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Amanda's cheese spots

Today we are sharing a new guest post by our friend Amanda, a new resident in the Piedmont wine country!

Amanda Courtney born outside of the Boston area, after high school she went to study metal-smithing and jewelry design at the Maine College of Art in Portland ME. Which then brought her to Los Angeles and from there she was tantalized by the super passionate and exciting food and wine scene that LA had to offer.  It was then that she found her passion and where she got her wine degree at the Wine and Spirit Educational Trust. Working with wine, talking and educating people about the different regions, varieties, and philosophies of the winemakers, she had found her true talent. She now lives and works in one of the most important wine areas in Italy, Piemonte. Having recently started up her own Wine Adventures company she is now able to show people around this area to educate them about the food, wine, and culture of this wonderful place.  

You can find her at

Friday, March 3, 2017

Turin's bicerin coffee

Turin more than any other city in the world is so characterized by its own coffee culture to have its own coffee: bicerin.

The word bicerin comes from the local dialect and it means small glass because back in the 18th century it was served in a small glass and at a small price to allow everyone to enjoy it.
This decadent coffee drink includes chocolate and frothed cream and it's the evolution of "bavareisa", another 18th century popular drink, served in large round glasses and enjoyed mainly by aristocrats and wealthy people.

According to the local custom, the bicerin's identity stays in keeping the three layers of coffee, chocolate and cream unstirred so as to fully taste them separately. After all, this is not a cappuccino, a cafe' moka or any other kind of similar coffee you can enjoy anywhere else.

bicerin and the cookies to dunk: torcetti, baci di dama, canestrelli, krumiri and lady fingers
Most likely it was invented in a tiny coffee shop that today carries its name: Caffe' Al Bicerin, located in Piazza della Consolata, between Via Garibaldi and the Porta Palazzo market. This is the only place in the world where they still serve it following the original and secret recipe

Anywhere else in Turin, you will still be able to order it but... the ingredients, their amounts and preparation will not be exactly like the one enjoyed by the Count of Cavour, the very first Italian Prime Minister and all the other prominent people of the past like Picasso and E. Hemingway who adored it!