Take Detroit, add a pinch of Boston and a dash of Washington, garnish with Sun Valley to the north and a California beach to the south, sprinkle lightly with Aqueduct race track and a Colorado trout stream. And what do you have? Torino, a bustling city of a million-plus which was the first capital of modern Italy 100 years ago and now is its fast-beating industrial heart.
Each pulse of Torino's heart spurts shiny new cars of daring design onto the highways of the world, for it is the home of Fiat, the Ford of Italy, of Lancia, and of men with magic names in the world of sleek, fast cars: Designers Sergio Pininfarina, Giovanni Michelotti, Nuccio Bertone and Ghia's Luigi Segre.
Their creations fill prosperous Torino's stately streets curb to curb, flit past the massive brickwork that was a city gate 2,000 years ago in Roman times, glide through piazzas of regal proportions, past baroque palaces and medieval churches, built when Torino was the seat of the House of Savoy. History has rushed past those ancient sovereigns and their monuments but not past Torino, whose current crown prince is Giovanni Agnelli, scion of the family that founded Fiat in 1899, sportsman and president of the organizing committee of the centenary exhibition "Italia 61," which has already brought more than 4 million visitors this year to see the gleamingly modern goods and services of the new Italy that Torino symbolizes. The exhibition will remain open through October.
In many ways Torino doesn't even seem Italian. Its streets run straight and meet at sensible right angles with the precision of a military camp (they should—Augustus' soldiers named the city Augusta Taurinorum). Its citizens are up bright and early, keep appointments on time, burst into song only in their showers. There are no strolling musicians, mendicants or soft-eyed young men seductively offering ballpoint pens for half price. Drivers stop at stop lights and almost never honk their horns.
Even the unruly river Po runs quietly in Torino, neatly encased in concrete banks and rows of recreation clubs that sport tennis courts and boats for hire. Parks and gardens dot the city, as does a vast collection of extraordinarily bellicose statuary. In almost every square is a large bronze man waving a sword, sheathing a sword or perishing in the arms of a sorrowing (and usually nude) female angel. Stirring days they had indeed in Torino, but today the citizenry has beaten its swords into casting rods, its cannon into bird guns.
This time of year everyone in town wears the air-sniffing alertness of the stag on top of the Stupinigi Hunting Lodge, for it is hunting and fishing time in the Alpine valleys to the north. Trout, pheasant, quail, wild hare and partridge are there for the taking. The masochistic can even scramble off to trail the elusive chamois and Alpine ibex in the Val d'Aosta if they don't mind falling off an Alp or paying a healthy sum ($150 and up) for the privilege of shooting.
At Ottino's fancy game shop on the Via Lagrange this time of year the window is full of boxes of gourmet-prized white truffles and plates of very small, very naked little birds. Every good restaurant in town has a special listing for game, and a Yank in Torino need not apologize for being hungry at 12 noon and again at 7:30 at night. In Rome such hours are considered scandalous, and somnolent waiters have not yet donned either jackets or smiles, but in Torino one dines early—and very well.
Where better than at the famous Ristorante del Cambio, which has catered to the great and the busy in crimson-and-gold fin de siècle finery for 250 years in the same spot? Cambio was the favorite restaurant of the genius of Italian unity, Camillo Cavour, and even today the tricolor of Italy and a neat plaque mark the spot where Cavour sat and, evidently, stared across the room at his own image in a mirror on the opposite wall.
There is 'l caval 'd brôns where a vast menu lists north Italian specialties in four languages and has separate listings on the back for Russian, Indian, Spanish-Portuguese, German-Austrian and Chinese dishes which will be prepared on request. Dining regularly at 'l caval 'd brôns is like a short course at the Berlitz School of Languages, with refreshments.
Both these restaurants and the more modest ones serve the best grissini in the world—the slimmest, crispest, best-tasting bread sticks to be had, and so specifically torinese, they say, that even exporting them to nearby Milano ruins their taste. Their taste is, in fact, elusive, as are many of the charms of Torino. This is not a city which overwhelms as does a Rome, a Florence, a Naples. Instead, it slips up as softly as a hunter in the hills, and charms the visitor over coffee in the vast Piazza San Carlo, which the torinesi use as a civic living room, or while he is strolling past the discreetly elegant shops in the arcades which line all streets in the center of town. In the comfort of the arcades rain never falls, hot sun never assaults and shopkeepers are so courteous it seems a breach of etiquette not to buy.