My job requires me to be constantly doing research. This can be browsing the vast world online (first choosing the best sources and then analysing them to gain insight on certain phenomena) or visiting or participating in events, workshops, fairs, occasions and manifestations that I find useful or that could be in the future. These include short urban immersions in cities or areas that meet a series of requirements, regarding their characteristics, allowing me to see new things, new ways of doing things, ideas worth learning more about. The latest place I decided to delve into isn’t far from Barcelona. In fact, it’s just an hour and a half away (by plane).
Why Turin? For some time now, I’ve been hearing about the effervescence of this city (and region: Piedmont) that is working on interesting projects in innovation, social innovation, food and restaurants. If you’ve ever had a look at the projects I work on, you’ll know this city was a logical choice. The final push, a conversation with an old school friend I hadn’t seen for ages who has roots in Turin. So, I grabbed my suitcase and comfortable shoes to walk loads (and a good coat).
My first impressions of Turin: very cold, silent and dusted with snow. Everyone said I shouldn’t go in January, when this city at the foot of the Alps is known specifically for its cold weather. But the cold was just another ingredient that made this one of my favourite European city breaks. So, with my notebook, cameras and mobile in hand, I set out to discover, bit by bit, one of the cities with the most charm and potential on the continent. Wandering and wandering, walking, visiting markets (like the one at Porta Palazzo), going into shops, museums, historical spots like Caffè Mulassano, Caffè al Bicerin and Tre Galline restaurant, but also discovering ideas that combine innovation and tradition, like Ristorante Monti, bookshops with a very interesting selection, jazz concerts inside shoe stores and running across an interactive sculpture by Marc Didou , “ECO”, right in the heart of the city. Not to mention all the urban art in the city, which I am slightly (very) obsessed with, in particular as a channel for explaining many trends in society, urbanism and art. I could fill pages and pages with details of places and experiences, describing people, but I prefer, for this post, to sum up my immersion in these things I jotted down in my notebook.
- You take Turin in bit by bit (like its cuisine, rooted in the Piedmont territory). It might not bowl you over right away like other Italian cities, such as Venice, Florence or Rome. You discover it slowly: hidden corners, neoclassic charm and, even, a touch of decadence.
- But don’t let that fool you: it is an innovative city (in fact, it was named the second most innovative in Europe in the 2016 iCapital Award – The European Capital of Innovation Award). All you have to do is look at all the different artistic manifestations, pilot programmes for social innovation, design, technology, and you’ll quickly realise that the so-called decadence of Turin is sort of done of purpose.
- Turin exudes history and classic charm all around, but it is also full of modernity, care in the details (something I’m crazy about), good food, local produce, sustainability.
- Turin is also a place where the automotive sector, design and technology have gone hand-in-hand for many years now.
You may ask whether I’ve brought back ideas from Turin that I can apply to my work. Well, yes, I have, starting with this post. You may also wonder whether these short immersions are worth it. Absolutely. They open your mind, refresh your ideas and give you a new perspective.
The trip to Turin opened my eyes to things I already knew -or guessed- and I had the chance to see them first hand: urbanism, social innovation, art, design, sustainability and food, balance of tradition and innovation, design, care in retail shops and historical areas… These urban immersions allow you to take the pulse of a city and, of course, you’re always left wanting more. The most important thing is that you find information and gain insight that can be extremely useful for your projects.