Turin in Italy is one of my favourite cities in the country. While everyone is speaking about south of Italy, the Amalfi Coast and Portofino, I will tell you that you are missing a lot by not travelling to the northwestern part of the country – the Piedmont (Piemonte) region.
Visiting the First Capital of Italy
Most people have been or want to go to Milan – one of the fashion capitals of the world. (See this 12-day Italy train itinerary that includes Milan) And yes, it is an interesting place to see, but if you are (like most people are) a person who looks for authenticity and real-life encounters, you have to go out of the beaten path. In Turin, you will find authenticity in its purest form, and even more. In Turin you have it all – the delicious and various Italian foods (think ice cream, pasta, pizza, pastries…etc.; you have culture and beautiful architecture; more of all – you have gorgeous royal palaces to wander around too!
WHY VISIT TURIN, ITALY
Turin has a magnificent royal history and is not far from the French border. In the past, Turin (I prefer to call it Torino, it sounds so much better in Italian) was an important political centre in Italy and even was Italy’s first capital city. That’s why now the historical centre of Turin is inscribed to the World Heritage List as the Residences of the Royal House of Savoy. Thanks to the House of Savoy, we have today the possibility to enjoy walking around gorgeous parks, marble-floored palace galleries and feel like Italian princesses walking in their magnificent summer homes for the price of an entrance ticket.
But Turin is not only about aristocracy and glorious past. The region is well known for its slow food traditions. For the ladies, it is probably most enticing that every year in Turin there is a Chocolate Festival – CioccolaTÒ.
WHAT TO SEE IN TURIN, ITALY
Palazzina di Caccia of Stupinigi
Palazzo Stupiniggi is a remarkable hunting residence with a beautiful façade and unmistakable branding – a lovely deer. This is my personal favourite amongst the palaces I have seen in Turin. Its simple, clean and harmonic design is far more sophisticated than the architectural styles used for residences with similar purposes in the Loire Valley.
Venaria and Stupinigi, although both designed in a baroque style, cannot be more different from one another. While Stupinigi has a fine beauty delicately mixed with the hunting lodge theme, Venaria feels more “formal” but its main beauty lies in the breathtaking Diana’s Gallery. Marble floor in black and white and finely decorated white arch ceiling make this gallery a worthy opponent to Versailles in Paris. This explains the bigger popularity of this palace among tourists.
Piazza San Carlo
The pedestrian Piazza San Carlo is the heart of Turin. Just nearby is the famous Egyptian Museum and walking under the typical Italian arcades is a real pleasure during the hot summer.
But I will tell you a local secret. Under one of these arcades, you will find Café Torino (at Piazza San Carlo 204). Look for the bull. The people of Turin believe that if you step on the bull’s balls and you whirl three times clockwise, this will bring you luck. So, don’t miss the chance to help the Fortune!
Galleria Subalpina is a beautiful gallery that even much smaller than the Parisian passages definitely has its charm. You will find it at one corner of the Piazza Castello, just next to the historical Bar Mulassano.
The National Museum of Cinema & Mole Antoleana
This museum is located in one of the landmark buildings of Turin – Mole Antolleana. It is also the tallest museum building in the world. At the time of my visit, the exhibition of Cuban cinema posters were occupying the several floors of the museum. But the most memorable was the ascending to the top of the dome because of the elevator moving in the void supported only by its rope wires. It’s both scary and breathtaking experience.
The Egyptian Museum
For most people is a surprise that this museum houses the largest collection of Egyptian artefacts outside Cairo.
Superga is the hill above Turin that today houses the tombs of the Royal House of Savoy members. It offers a good wide view of the city and the cathedral built on the hill is surrounded by a green park that invites for a walk. You can reach the top of the hill where the cathedral is by a rack railway (The Sassy-Superga rack tramway) that transports people up and down from more than 100 years. The wooden benches and the red colour of the small train make this experience feel like a toy-cart ride.
WHERE TO STAY IN TURIN
My home for a few nights was Turin Palace Hotel – a 4 star centrally locate a designer hotel that has several advantages:
– Perfect location close to the city centre and in front of Porta Nuova railway station
– large choice of breakfasts served in a beautiful setting
– an amazing and spacious rooftop bar
– quiet and clean rooms with a luxurious feel
WHERE TO EAT AND WHAT TO TRY
Go for one of the “penguins” (3.50 €), my personal favourite is the one with violet taste.
Address: Piazza Carignano 8
To have a pizza with the taste of the real pizza Napoletana, go to Don Gennaro pizzeria.
Address: Corso Novara 1 – Angolo Piazza Crispi 52/A
Taste this typical Piemonte dessert while visiting Venaria Reale. You can do this in the restaurant in front of the ticket office.
Café Bar Mulassano
Café Mulssano is the birthplace of tramezzino but more important it is a bar with Baroque interiors, lavish decoration with a pinch of history.
Address: Piazza Costello 15
For an artisanal chocolate experience, visit the Confetteria Avvignano at Piazza Carlo Felice 50.
HOW TO GET TO THERE
Alitalia connects the city via Roma. Other carriers that have direct flights to Torino Caselle Airport are Lufthansa, Iberia, KLM, Air France, EasyJet, British Airways and more.
WHEN TO GO TO TURIN
Although Turin is situated close to the Alps, summer can be quite overwhelming with heat. Winter is not very cold but dry and often there are fogs. Spring and autumn look like good times to go but be aware of frequent rains in these seasons. If I have to go again, I would probably choose June or September as best months to visit Turin.
HOW TO SAVE MONEY WHILE VISITING TURIN
One way to reduce costs is by purchasing a tourist card. The Turin Tourist Office offers several options. One is the Royal Card which gives you access to the most significant palaces in Piedmont Region as well as discounts on some additional tours and taxi services.
Torino-Piedmont Card is another option for one or multi-day use and covers public transportation, museum tickets, discounts on events and tours and much more.
Both cards you can buy in the Tourist Information centres at Piazza Carlo Felice and at Piazza Castello.
WHAT ELSE YOU CAN DO AND SEE
If you plan to explore more of this part of Italy, there are some great places to visit not far from Turin. One of them is Cuneo that was a lovely surprise for me because it’s not popular among foreign tourists except French people.
In the border region between France and Italy, you can visit some exquisite small towns and villages that keep their authentic appeal as they are literally hidden from the tourist crowds in Monaco and on the French Riviera. If you make a road trip, take the road from Turin to Menton, near Monaco, and you will pass some of the most interesting places like Sospel and Breil-sur-Roya.
Turin is one of the best women travel destinations in Italy. It is not difficult to reach it, there is a plenitude of things to do and see, even more to experience. The best about Turin? It is still not as touristy as we can expect it to become in the future.
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