Describing Turin is no easy task; the city is known for its cold weather, grey cityscape, and large industries. On the other hand, it is also an interesting and multifaceted city, rich in history. Formerly the capital of Italy, and linked to the Savoy tradition, it is a city of charm, brimming with historic monuments and bearing the entrepreneurial spirit of a city in continual economic growth. It is also a very ordered city, built to an urban plan with linear streets from the Roman period. Above all, Turin is an elegant city that does not flaunt its regal past, traces of which can be found in its artistic and historic heritage.
The physical, historic, and cultural centre is the symbol of the ancient capital of the Savoy kingdom. Turin would not be the same without its palaces, such as the
This is a mostly residential area which is popular with the Torinesi for its elegance. The famous
This area is mainly associated with
This area is densely populated and contains many shops, but the large number of crowded buildings darken the atmosphere. There are a number of wholesale shops in the area, such as Revedi, but tourists generally prefer to shop in the centre of town. For a more unique tour, make note that Turin is one of thirty three international official centres for witchcraft. Their focal point is either the astrological sundial on the right side of the Cathedral or the
The multi-ethnic area of Turin extends from
Piedmont is a real culinary wonderland for a number of reasons, many of them geographical: links with France through a shared dynasty heritage go back for centuries. In addition, the mild, sunny climate and an extraordinary rich soil produce some of the world's best vines in the hilly areas of Langhe and Monferrato (30/50 miles SE of Turin). Worldwide, top restaurants, exclusive retreats, and gourmet households have recognized the distinct flavor of Turin's Barolo wines. The white Alba truffle is gaining a strong reputation among culinary experts as well, even getting special coverage in magazines like "Forbes". In Italy everybody knows great red wines such as Nebbiolo, Dolcetto and the popular, strong Barbera, the farmers' everyday wine. As a result, all of the other products of Piedmont are experiencing cult status, even going so far as to make the aforementioned white truffle from Alba sell for about 10 dollars per gram—almost the same price as gold!
When exploring the Centre, there are a variety of different options to satisfy any palate. For a truly traditional experience, visit Del Cambio, which was established in the 18th century and still retains much of its original appeal. From the service to the décor, you will feel very much a part of history. If your tastes run towards more exotic fare, check out Arcadia, a combination sushi bar and Italian trattoria. For those on a budget, Porto di Savona, offers tasty dishes for a good price, with a selection of appetizers and pasta dishes that are especially good. For a taste of the Tuscan sun on a grey Turin day, stop by Al Gatto Nero and enjoy their delicious appetizers with special ingredients imported from Tuscany.
Also make sure to stop by Crocetta-Cenisia for their neighborhood Mercato della Crocetta. One of the best places to buy fresh food in the city, it is always bustling and you can find all sorts of delicious products from around the region. For a comfortable and intimate dining experience, stop by Osteria Antiche Sere and enjoy your meal in one of three cosy rooms or in their outdoor courtyard.
If you have a craving for something sweet, Turin can easily accommodate. Also in the city's Centre is Baratti & Milano, a confectionery, that was opened in 1873 and has remained a top choice for delicious and sophisticated treats. It is also a full service café, complete with cocktails and an excellent lunch menu. Not to be outdone, Peyrano-Pfatisch, stands in the Crocetta neighborhood and has gained a strong reputation as a decadent chocolate shop serving everything from cakes to candies.
Visiting Turin is a larger undertaking than one might initially think, as there are many different ways to explore the city and the surrounding area. Try this tour of the city centre in the morning, when you are feeling energetic—after this nice long walk, you'll be ready for a café break.
From Piazza Vittorio to Piazza Castello
Starting from Piazza Vittorio, in front of which you can see the huge 'mole' of the Gran Madre di Dio and the river Po, walk along Via Po towards Piazza Castello. On your way, take the opportunity to make a small detour through Via Verdi and visit the Cavallerizza quarter. Under the porticoes in Via Po you will see some of Turin's most beautiful buildings, such as the university; visit the courtyard and indulge at some of Turin's most famous ice cream parlours and patisseries. Stop in at Caffè Fiorio for an ice cream or hot chocolate, and taste their speciality of gianduia (chocolate cream) ice cream.
Continuing down Via Po, have a look around Piazza Castello, where you will find the Royal Palace, the Church of San Lorenzo, the Teatro Regio, and the Palazza Madama. Once you are at this point you have to decide whether to go down Via Pietro Micca or Via Roma, both of which are skirted by porticoes. If you opt for Via Roma you will come across Piazza San Carlo halfway down the street- this is where everyone goes for a traditional Italian passeggiata, a leisurely evening walk through the city streets. After Piazza San Carlo, you will enter Piazza Carlo Felice, and from here onwards you could continue walking under the porticoes of Corso Vittorio. Another option would be to go back to your starting point by walking back under the porticoes on the other side of the road, and in this way you will have toured the centre of Turin without being hit by a single drop of rain!
You may be rather exhausted after this walk, so take a quick break for lunch while resting your feet in one of the many small restaurants which line the sides of Via Garibaldi. After this you may be ready to begin the next itinerary on foot.
Via Garibaldi and its Surroundings
Via Garibaldi, which was once called Via Dora Grossa, begins and ends in two beautiful squares, Piazza Castello and Piazza Statuto. On the stroll down this charming avenue, you might want to wander off into some of the pretty side streets and squares in the area. Exit the Piazzetta Reale through the passage on the left; this leads into Piazza San Giovanni, also known as Piazza del Duomo. Here you will find Turin's Duomo, the cathedral where the Sindone is kept, a relic shroud said to have once been wrapped around the body of Jesus Christ. At the northern end of the square there are remains of ancient walls, a Roman cobbled floor, a Roman theatre, and the Porta Palatina. Keep going from here and soon you will come across the picturesque and colourful Porta Palazzo district which is famous for its market, the balon (a Turin collection), and its mixture of different ethnic goups. Continue down Via Milano, and you will arrive in Piazza Palazzo di Città, and from there you can follow Via Garibaldi down to Piazza Statuto, a square first opened in 1864 as one of the four monumental entrances into the city.
Boating on the Po
In the last few years the Po has become more and more popular with the people of Turin, mainly thanks to the new cycle paths, boats, and the bars and restaurants along its banks. One of the best places to admire the city and its beautiful hills is onboard a boat on the river Po. There are guided boat tours running year-round, and on weekends and during the Christmas holidays, these trips are free! The view is especially spectacular when the festa degli artisti (arts festival) takes place because Turin is all lit up. Along the left bank of the Po, between the Umberto I Bridge and the Principessa Isabella Bridge you will see the Parco del Valentino, the Borgo Medievale, and the Orto Botanico. Further along the river you will have a good view of the Hill, which is dotted with the villas of the local nobility and upper classes, as well as with many religious buildings such as Monte dei Cappuccini, and the Basilica di Superga.
The TurismoBus service runs everyday except Tuesdays, and offers a guided tour of the city and the royal residences. There is a multilingual commentary on board which gives information about the monuments, the museums, and the famous buildings en route. It is a very good service that offers a wide variety of services and guides to those wanting a more relaxing trip around the city.
The tram that usually takes people to work or school becomes Ristocolor, a pleasant restaurant from which you can admire Turin. Busy tourists and gourmets alike will go mad for this restaurant, as they can try many Piedmontese specialties on the tram, all the while catching sight of historic monuments. It was the first restaurant of its kind in Europe, completely renovated and colorfully designed inside and out by the world famous designer Ugo Nespolo. The bus can accommodate groups of up to 32 people, and has disabled access as well. Call for info on bookings and tours.
The Magic of Turin
Turin's magic and charm is easy to appreciate through the discovery of its architectural splendour. In fact, most of the places linked with strange and interesting rumours can be found right in the centre of town, mingling with the monuments and buildings for which Turin is best known. This trail will take you passed Turin's "black" areas associated with Satanism and witchcraft, and on to the "white" town towards the Gran Madre, the place where the two influences meet.
The tour starts off from a small obelisk in Piazza Statuto that is partially hidden by a sparse clump of trees—this is the spot where Black Masses are rumoured to be held. View the inscriptions on the monument such as "666", upside-down crosses, and other similar incomprehensible phrases. Moving on from this spooky place, proceed towards Via Garibaldi where the shops serve as a good distraction from the uneasy feeling that lingers after the last stop. At the corner of Via Orfane is the church of San Dalmazzo, where suspicion of Satanist rituals is fuelled by the frequent theft of holy water. A couple of blocks along lies I cani di San Domenico, the area presided over by the church of San Domenico, where torture and suffering were once very commonplace—this is where the Inquisition was held.
Leave behind this dark side of town and proceed down Via Garibaldi towards Piazza Castello and Palazzo Madama. Once in the piazza, turn to your left to face Palazzo Reale. Move forward into the courtyard, and buried beneath you underground are the Alchemy Caves (Grotte Alchemiche), where only the initiated scientists may enter. Behind the Palazzo Reale lies the Duomo, housing the greatest mystery the city has ever seen, the sacred Shroud. Unfortunately the relic, in which Christ was said to be buried, is now hidden in a secret location, following the completion of restoration work from a fire a few years ago.
Back in Piazza Castello, continue through the surrounding arcades towards Via Po. A long arcade leads to Piazza Vittorio Veneto, and once inside, it is worth taking a moment to appreciate the view of the Po River, the Monte dei Cappuccini on the hilltop to the right, and the tour's final destination on the other side of the river. The Gran Madre di Dio dominates the entire skyline with its well-known statues representing Faith and Religion. Cross over the bridge and take a closer look at them. One is meant to be a warning to the pope, while the other is rumored to be the place where the Holy Grail is buried.
If you prefer a trip outside the town, hop into a car and head towards the Val di Susa, home of the Avigliana lakes. Spend the day sunning yourself on the beach or water-skiing in the summer, and enjoy the slopes in the winter. What is so mysterious about that? Some people have admitted to seeing strange lights in and out of the calm water, which are rumored to be linked to UFOs. And if you are really into extra-terrestrial activity, take a tent up to Monte Musine and spend the night sky searching. But beware: flying saucers and aliens are no joking matter up here- and even if you do not have a close encounter of the third kind, watch out for the adders living among the rocks.
Turin has a wide choice of hotels to meet every need and satisfy every pocket. The atmosphere in these hotels is warm and friendly, totally functional and wonderfully welcoming. Finding a place to stay in Turin is easy; all you need to do is decide what kind of visiting experience you want to have:
At number 8 Via Sacchi, next to Porta Nuova station, you'll find the luxurious four star il Turin Palace Hotel. A little further down the road is il Genova e Stazione with a decor both classic and sumptuous. L'Hotel Genio is situated across from the station in Piazza Carlo Felice, on the corner of the glamorous promenade Corso Vittorio Emanuele. You can drink in its pleasant atmosphere and elegant furnishings while making use of its convenient business services. The Starhotel Majestic (also on the same street), is very comfortable and earns the four stars allocated to it. Moving towards the centre of Piazza Carlo Felice you'll find the Roma e Rocca Cavour, a lovely hotel decorated with flair and good taste. Via Roma has a good selection of hotels for the weary traveller too, such as the Jolly Hotel Ligure which are very cosmopolitan and suitable for business travellers.
The city centre also has many accommodations to offer. If you head towards Piazza Castello, and stop in Via Carlo Alberto, you will see the Grand Hotel Sitea, richly decorated in splendour. At the top of Via San Francesco d'Assisi you'll find Le Petit Hotel, an ideal place for tourists and businessmen alike. A few doors down is L'Hotel Liberty, a which is housed in a charming period building that still retains much of its original design.
L'Hotel Diplomatic is in the direction of Porta Susa station, this is a luxurious hotel located at number 42 Via Cernaia, close to L'Hotel Dock Milano, which boasts all the modern comforts. There are several other accommodations close to the station: the City Hotel has very contemporary décor and furnishings. Near to the beautiful Parco del Valentino, the Valentino du Parc stands proudly in Via Giotto, it is small but elegant and cosy.
Do you prefer the hills and the green countryside? Then you could choose Hotel Villa Sassi, a place for repose which is submerged in greenery. The hotel also has an excellent restaurant, which is available for both guests and visitors. L'Hotel Crimea nestles at the foot of the hills with a view of the rest of the city.
If you are in Turin on business, you may want to stay at the newly built Hotel Meridien-Lingotto which is one of the most practical places to stay in the whole of Turin. For busy travellers the Jet Hotel is handily placed beside the airport. Thankfully, it isn't a modern monstrosity, as the hotel is located inside a renovated farmhouse that also houses the Antica Zecca restaurant.