today I’d like to begin my post with a question: if you hear the name Turin, what do you think of?
If your answer has something to do with automobiles, soccer or Winter Olimpic Games, it’s perfectly reasonable.
Unfortunately, often Italians remember Piedmont’s Capital for these things, ignoring its history and wonders. So it’s not surprising most foreigners have only a vague idea about Turin or have never heard about it.
Turin’s main misfortune is-strange but true-being in Italy. In any other country, it would be considered a jewel and would be crowded tourists.
With this article, I hope to spark your interest and help you get to know this beautiful town.
After this lengthy premise, let’s start with basic information.
Turin is very well connected with the rest of Italy. Depending on where you are, you can reach it by car, train (high-speed trains included) or plane. Caselle, Turin’s airport, is more or less 20 kilometres from the town centre. If you want to drive to Turin, search for facilities with car parking included. Finding a parking lot isn’t tricky, but the price is quite high and varies between 16 and 27 euros depending on the district.
If you can choose, I suggest you take a car because some beautiful places are outside the city centre and, although you can reach them with public transportation, you can save a lot of time with your own car.
If you have no idea about which hotel to choose, I recommend the Hotel Alpi Resort, a mid-range facility not far from Piazza Vittorio Veneto.
The one I suggest you is a three-day tour. Since Turin has much to offer, if you have less than three days, you can pick from my selection of attractions, depending on your tastes and needs.
The only way to begin your first day in Piedmont’s capital is having breakfast in one of the many historical cafes scattered around the town centre. You won’t have any problem in finding the right place near Porta Nuova Railway Station or Via Po, the heart of downtown.
After a tasty breakfast, it’s time to begin your exploration heading toward the Reggia di Venaria and Castello della Mandria, UNESCO world heritage sites. If you don’t have a car, you can take the Venaria Express, a bus you can catch every hour from Piazza Vittorio Veneto or Piazza Castello. If you want to make the most of your time, I suggest taking the bus one hour before the Reggia’s opening hour.
The Reggia di Venaria is an imposing Baroque building, built in the XVII century and subjected to many interventions in the following centuries. In fact, the Savoy family, sovereigns of their namesake dukedom, used this and all their residences to show off their power and wealth. The many improvements over the centuries made Venaria a Palace worth of the most renowned in Europe, such as Versailles, Caserta and Schonbrunn.
Unfortunately, from Napoleonic domination up to 1999, the palace of Venaria Reale was used as barracks and endured decades of neglect and ransacks which deprived Italy of one of its most essential heritages. The recovery project started in 2000 and is slowly bringing back this imposing building to its former splendour.
The palace is surrounded by a majestic park, which can be visited on foot or by bus. Beyond the park, you can reach Parco della Mandria and Borgo Castello, eagerly desired by the king Emanuele II. The visit to the Royal Appartments is a must.
If you manage a good pace during your visit, you can go back to the village of Venaria for lunch. In the pretty pedestrian road, you won’t have any problem finding a place for lunch.
Now it’s time to go back to Turin. Likely you’ll have time for one visit only. I recommend you to spend your afternoon at the Mole Antonelliana, the symbol of Turin. Its dome can be seen from any part of town. The building is home to two attractions, the Museum of Cinema on the ground floor and the scenic elevator which allows you to reach the top of the dome and enjoy an incredible view over the town and the surrounding mountains.
The perfect way to end your first day is a stroll downtown, especially along the most elegant shopping streets—Via Po and Via Roma. The latter is cut in two halves by the beautiful Piazza San Carlo, where you can see the equestrian statue of Emanuele Filiberto of Savoy.
Turin offers many different options for dinner. I strongly recommend local cuisine, which is varied and rich of typical dishes such as agnolotti (a kind of ravioli), bollito misto (a mixed plate made with a variety of boiled meats and served with different gravies) and fritto misto alla piemontese (which is different from the fritto misto—fried fish and vegetables—you can find in other parts of Italy). Some of the most renowned restaurants are Solferino, Monferrato and Tre Galline.
You can begin your second day in Turin with a walk in the Parco del Valentino, the most famous park in town, near the Po river bank.
You can start your tour of the park from the southern part, where there is a beautiful reproduction of a Medieval hamlet. The entrance to the lower part of the hamlet is free while you have to purchase a ticket to visit the Rocca and its garden.
At the centre of the Parco del Valentino, there is the Castello del Valentino, UNESCO world heritage and presently seat of a part of Turin Polytechnic. Visiting the building isn’t easy. The castle is open only a couple of Saturdays each month-usually the first and the third-and you need to book the visit in advance. At any rate, you can enjoy the view of the exterior at any time.
When you decide to leave the park, walk toward the Murazzi, the riverfront along the Po river. Until a few years ago, this was the heart of the nightlife in Turin, but now this area is scarcely used due to judicial vicissitudes.
Walking along the river, you’re going to reach the Emanuele II Bridge. Cross it to reach the Church of the Holy Mother of God (Chiesa della Gran Madre di Dio), a neoclassical building inspired by the Roman Pantheon.
The Chiesa della Gran Madre is the best starting point to reach one of the most beautiful and most overlooked jewels in town—Villa della Regina. Reaching this palace is not easy on foot, because it’s at the end of one kilometre of steep road. However, if you have wind and will enough, you’ll be rewarded by the beauty of this UNESCO world heritage. If you are moving around by car, you can postpone your visit and reach Villa della Regina once you are back to your vehicle.
This palace is closely related to the Savoy family, particularly to the Savoy queens who choose this residence for over two hundred years. Shortly before 1900, this sumptuous Villa was donated by the Savoys to the Institute for the daughters of the Italian soldiers, but before the donation, it was emptied of the exquisite furniture. Some of those pieces are still used as part of the Quirinale Palace’s furniture in Rome, the palace where the President of the Italian Republic resides. After years of neglect, Villa della Regina is living a long phase of restoration to bring it back to her former splendour, at least partially.
Once you are back to the city centre, you can devote some time to one of the main attraction in Turin—the Egyptian Museum. This facility is the second most important Egyptian Museum in the world after the museum in Cairo, so it doesn’t need much introduction, just a recommendation: don’t miss it!
After your visit to the Egyptian Museum, don’t forget to stop at Palazzo Carignano, a UNESCO world heritage a few blocks away from the museum. This building houses the Museum of the Renaissance, but the real reason of interest are the apartments of the Princes of Carignano, who ordered the construction of the palace at the end of 1600.
At this point, your day is almost over and, after so many endeavours it’s time for some rest. What better than a happy hour or a typical “apericena” in one of the best places in town? You can choose among many different options, such as Beerba or Zelli Wine Bar.
For your third day, you can begin with a short trip to the Palazzina di Caccia di Stupinigi. Stupinigi is a small village situated just outside the highway surrounding Turin, so it’s easy to reach by car. If you use public transportation, you need to take bus 41. The terminal is at the Railway Station Torino Lingotto, or you can catch it in Piazzale Caio Mario.
Stupinigi’s Hunting Building, UNESCO world heritage, was built in 1730 to serve as base camp for Savoy family’s hunting parties. In the following years, the palace was improved many times to increase the number of apartments and accommodate many guests, Napoleone Bonaparte among them.
The result is a fascinating and incredibly rich Rococo building, characterised by golden finishes, mirrors and trompe l’oeil frescoes. The entire building is decorated with references to hunting and country life, helping the visitor to understand the lifestyle and customs of the time.
The audio guide, included in the ticket, is essential to fully enjoy your visit and learn more about the building, its past inhabitants and its history.
If it’s open, you can take a stroll around the beautiful French garden behind the palace, but don’t linger too long! There are still many things to do.
Once you are back into the town centre, you can visit Piazza Castello. This is the most important square in town and is surrounded by important buildings: Palazzo Madama and Palazzo Reale, both UNESCO world heritage.
Palazzo Madama’s history is millenniums long. First built during the Roman era, it was renovated many times according to the different uses in different periods. Now the building contains a museum, full of china objects and potteries. But Palazzo Madama isn’t just a museum. Its three floors also offer a Roman mosaic and many rooms and salons used by the Savoy’s Court. Spend a few minutes visiting the tower, which provides a beautiful view of the city and Palazzo Reale.
Palazzo Reale was the main centre of power of the Savoy dynasty. Today it houses an extensive historical complex and museum. The whole building can be visited with a single ticket, which includes most of the rooms and attraction, except for a few halls that can be visited only with guided tours. The most impressive part is the first floor, where you can visit the royal apartments.
This palace is so well-finished that is difficult to choose a detail in particular over the others. Every aspect, from the ceilings to the decorated floors, from the furniture to the walls, is worth the visit.
Walking through the palace, you can reach the Royal Armoury. I don’t remember seeing such well tended and well-finished armoury in any other of my travel around the world. The visit to the Royal Palace ends with the Galleria Sabauda and Archeological Museum. The first is mostly a gallery for paintings, while the seconds contains several archaeological finds, such as coins, vases and the famous treasure of Marengo.
Getting out of the palace, you can enjoy a walk in the Royal Gardens, the palace’s French gardens where you can see the Tritons Fountain.
Before leaving the complex, don’t forget to visit the Royal Library, where centuries of history are collected and guarded. The library’s basement contains a section dedicated to old cookbooks and food studies.
At this point, your third day in Turin and our tour is over, but this town has much more to offer.
One of the most significant places for Turin and its history is Superga. This village rises upon the hills surrounding Turin and is notorious for the tragic plane crash in which the players and the staff of the soccer team Grande Torino lost their lives in 1949. In Superga, you’ll find one of the most renowned church in Italy and a memorial of the tragedy.
Reaching Superga from Turin is simple. If you don’t have a car, you can use the rack railway from the Sassi district, where the Dora river flows into the Po river, which gets you near the church.
As I told you at the beginning of this post, Turin is well known in the world for its car industry. If you are passionate about cars, you can’t miss a visit to the Automobile Museum. Inside you can see over two hundred vehicles and a cultural route showing the relationship between men and cars.
If you don’t have enough of beautiful palaces and residence, you can visit another Savoy residence, the Rivoli Castle, UNESCO world heritage. Inside there is an important Museum of Contemporary Art, with temporary exhibitions of famous artists such as De Chirico and Cerruti.
To reach the castle you can take bus 36 at the metro station Paradiso. During the weekend and public holidays, there is a shuttle bus leaving from Piazza Castello or Porta Susa Railway Station, but the number of trips per day is limited.
To finish our list of Turin’s attractions, I have to mention the Juventus Stadium, the most beautiful in Italy. The visit to the stadium includes the tour of the stadium and its museum, where you can learn the history of the club and see several memorabilia and cups won by the club in over one hundred of years of history.
I really hope this guide raised your interest in this beautiful city.
Thank you for reading my post. See you for the next destination!