Turin is a city in constant evolution: from Augusta Taurinorum (after 27 a.C.) to the capital of the Savoy Dukedom (1563) until becoming Italy’s first capital (1861), the queen of the automobile industry (1899) and the star of the 2006 Winter Olympics. Today it is being presented with an image that makes it even more appealing. Turin is a city that is just waiting to be discovered in all of its many aspects: filled with historic evidence, acclaimed museums, works of contemporary art en plein air, cultural events, with its characteristic porticos, renowned historical meeting places, its extensive parks and magic places.
10 GOOD REASONS TO VISIT TURIN:
• The first capital of Italy, before Florence and Rome
• The city preserving Leonardo da Vinci’s self portrait
• The Museo Egizio is the only museum other than the Cairo Museum that is dedicated solely to Egyptian art and culture
• The National Cinema Museum inside the“Mole Antonelliana”
• The city where the Holy Shroud is conserved
• The Royal Residences declared by Unesco a Human Heritage Site
• The famous historical cafés and patisseries
• The capital of contemporary art
• The capital of taste, chocolate and aperitifs
• The city with 18 km of arcades for shopping
WHAT TO SEE?
You should discover the diversity of Turin through its many amazing museums, testifying to the history, culture, industry and internationality of the city: from the Museo Egizio (Egyptian Museum) – the world’s most prominent one after the museum in Cairo – to the National Museum of Cinema in the glorious setting of the Mole Antonelliana, from the Museum of Ancient Art at Palazzo Madama to the National Museum of the Italian Risorgimento in Palazzo Carignano. Torino’s industrial vocation has found its exhibition centre in the renovated MAUTO National Automobile Museum which tells of the city’s automotive history and the social issues related to it.
Turin is also a vital point of reference for contemporary art: works and installations produced over the last thirty years by internationally famous artists are placed for all to see in the open air or on display at several museums and foundations such as GAM-Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art at Rivoli Castle, the Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Foundation, the Merz Foundation and the Giovanni e Marella Agnelli Art Gallery.
Known as the “Crown of Delights”, the group of castles built by the House of Savoy and recognised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1997 looks like a large crown when seen from above. The crown is metaphorical but the delights are real. Right in the centre, in Piazza Castello, there are the majestic Palazzo Reale – which, with the Savoy Gallery, the Royal Armoury, the Royal Library and the Archaeological Museum, form the “Royal Hub” – Palazzo Madama and Palazzo Carignano.
Along the River Po is Valentino Castle, built by Christine of France in the French style and now housing the Faculty of Architecture of Turin Polytechnic. Just a short way from the centre, the hill embraces Villa della Regina, surrounded by Italianate gardens with pavilions, fountains and agricultural areas. The “crown” is completed by a wonderful collection of castles and residences in the surrounding areas. The incredible Royal Palace of Venaria now hosts major events, exhibitions and concerts in its magnificent interiors and spectacular gardens. A favourite spot of the Savoy family for sumptuous feasts and solemn weddings was the Stupinigi Hunting Lodge, modeled on the style of contemporarily built Central European residences.
MAIN PLACES OF WORSHIP
Since 1578, the Duomo – the only example of Renaissance art in the city – has held the Holy Shroud, the Cloth claimed to have wrapped the body of Christ. Devotees can visit the corresponding Museum in the crypt of the Church of the Santissimo Sudario. Not only are Turin’s churches places of worship, they are also fine examples of architecture and art, mainly in baroque style: the church of San Lorenzo, the first work commissioned of Guarino Guarini by the Court of Savoy, the twin churches of Santa Cristina and San Carlo in the Piazza of the same name, the impressive church of San Filippo by Juvarra and the Basilica della Consolata – much loved by Turin’s citizens – are well worth a visit not just by churchgoers. The new church of Santo Volto – by the architect Botta – is an admirable example of use of land reclaimed from former industrial areas.
WHAT TO DO?
The long colonnaded route created in the past for the perambulations of the Savoy household in the town centre has now become an absolute paradise for shoppers. The area traditionally devoted to shopping is between Via Roma, heart and symbol of the city, and the pedestrian zones of Via Carlo Alberto and Via Lagrange where the shop windows of all the big names in fashion and jewellery glitteringly shine. Via Garibaldi is younger and trendier, Via Po is more “intellectual” with the bookshops and stores selling new and used records. Turin has many markets. The top one is at Porta Palazzo, the town’s true multiethnic heart in terms both of people and of the goods on display. Nearby there is also Balôn, the historical flea-market.
When the sunset warms the city and the lights flicker on it’s the moment for organising the evening: a cheerful aperitif in one of the many bars in the centre, a delicious dinner of traditional or ethnic foods… and then the Turin night awaits!
Piazza Vittorio Veneto, on the River Po, Borgo Dora and the Roman Quarter – the city’s real centre – are home to many trendy spots: here art, food and design make the atmosphere even more sparkling, here you can listen to classical music, pop and jazz all strictly live, you can chat, watch artistic performances, dance until dawn. Also San Salvario has an irresistible allure, the multiethnic district (between Porta Nuova station and Valentino Park), the focus of a major urban renewal project.
However, if your idea of an evening is more… classic, and you experience a thrill every time the curtain rises, then be enchanted by opera, concerts, dance, great drama and the avant-garde that tread the boards of the many theatres in the city: discover the Regio Theatre, Auditorium del Lingotto, Auditorium RAI, and Carignano Theatre.
A trip to Turin also means a journey into taste, to savour with intimate pleasure in a medley of sensations.
Here the appetisers come in an infinite variety based on meat, fish, vegetables, eggs, salami and cheeses, all obviously to be served with “grissini”, invented in the 17th century for Prince Victor Amadeus II of Savoy. Any first course has to include “agnolotti”, meat filled pasta which is dressed with either gravy from the roast, or butter and sage, ragout sauce or meat broth. Not to be missed is the wide range of high quality handmade cheeses coming from our Alpine valleys. And of course, all of this washed down with the great Piedmontese red and white wines: Barolo, Barbaresco, Barbera, Arneis and many more.
However, a true dinner in Turin must be preceded by the fun ritual that takes place late every afternoon in the cafés, wine bars and clubs along the river… the aperitif!
A cocktail or a glass of vermouth to go with sandwiches, cold cuts and local cheeses, pasta and risotto, multiethnic specialities, and the evening is ready to start!
If then, in the middle of the day, strolling beneath the elegant colonnades of the centre, your eye is caught by the inviting windows of the historical cafés, give in to the temptation of the hot drinks like “bicerin” based on coffee, chocolate and cream, “zabaione” and hot chocolate, in the café rooms decorated with mirrors, wood panelling and satin upholstery, where the atmosphere of the Risorgimento period can be experienced.
In Turin, in the 18th century, chocolate began to be processed and solidified, creating delicious products for satisfying the Court of Savoy and this led to the “invention” of gianduiotti, chocolates, pralines, cakes, biscuits, “pinguino” ice-creams and hot chocolate: world famous specialities which make Turin the Italian capital of traditional chocolate.