This Is The First Vegetarian City In The World

Although finding vegan food has become much more easier in the last ten years it’s still a struggle in many cases. Some consider themselves to be fortunate if there’s a vegan section in the supermarket they visit. Others feel very privileged if they should have an entire vegan supermarket around the corner. However, when an entire city decides to go vegetarian and even vegan in some part this is really noteworthy. That’s exactly what happened in Turin, Italy, which became the first “vegetarian city” in the country and probably even in Europe and the world. Turin has always been famous for the winter olympics but has even gained more popularity now for its vegetarian ambience due to its awesome and committed mayor Chiara Appendino who made all of this possible.

Aloud whirring sound emerges from the kitchen at Villa Somis, a high-end Italian restaurant in the hills overlooking Turin. Perhaps it’s a coffee machine, or a prosciutto slicer. But when chef Antonio Chiodi Latini comes out, he’s holding two glasses of light green “vegetable extract”, to wash down our vegan biscotti.

Chiodi Latini is 56, and until three years ago was known in certain local circles for his elaborately presented dishes, such as seafood pasta with edible flowers or perfect cylinders of raw beef. The menu at his new pop-up venture, Chiodi Latini New Food, is no less fancy, but completely free of all animal products.

“My old customers say: ‘It’s amazing how you used to cook, you were good at making fish soup, and lovely meat,” says Latini, who opened for business on the top floor of the elegant villa this summer, having turned vegan himself three years ago for health reasons. “But people want to try new things, and spend an evening eating food that makes them feel good with their own body and soul.”

Turin is famous for cars, football, the winter olympics – and now vegetarianism, after new mayor Chiara Appendino announced plans to turn it into Italy’s first “vegetarian city” earlier this year. Traditional butchers have expressed their horror at the proposals, which include introducing a weekly meat-free day, and teaching schoolchildren about animal welfare and ecology. In my hand, I have the city’s “veg map” for tourists. I’ve come for the tour.

“In Turin, there are now more than 30 restaurants and shops serving vegan and vegetarian food, which for a city this size, is possibly the highest number in Italy,” says Stefania Giannuzzi, the deputy mayor behind the initiative. “We wanted to value and recognise this aspect of the city.”

Vegetarian visitors wandering the streets of the northern Italian city won’t take long to stumble across one of the growing number of new vegetarian delis and cafés. Despite the reputation of the Piedmont region for hearty Alpine fare (one of the most famous local dishes is bollito misto, a stew made from boiled veal, beef and chicken) the choice on offer is impressive.

“Turin has always been at the forefront of things,” says Claudio Viano, who opened the city’s first vegetarian restaurant, Mezzaluna, with his partner Daniele 20 years ago. “Turin and maybe Milan are now the best places in Italy to visit for vegan food,” he says, praising the Slow Food Movement which was set up in the nearby town of Bra.

At L’Articiocc, a café in central Turin specialising in meat-free Ligurian food, a set menu offers three dishes from a selection behind the counter. I go for gnocchi tossed in a delicious red pesto made with ground nuts instead of parmesan, a courgette and quinoa bake and a vegetable focaccia. The dairy-free chocolate and almond torte is less impressive, but Giannuzzi recommends the desserts at another nearby vegan restaurant, Soul Kitchen, instead.

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  1. Vicky Neale Reply

    Great idea, I visited Ghent in Belgium recently and they promote every Thursday as a meat free day. Apparently Schools and universities don’t serve meat on Thursdays and many restaurants have a vegetarian special.

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