Before I started blogging, I made a list of all the places I’ve been to in my life: when I need an idea for an article I open it up, and I pick one. What I realized, is that I’ve never written anything about my city: Turin. I was born and raised here and, thinking about it, I’m really lucky. Unfortunately, we are always taking for granted what we have under our eyes, so today I want to convince you to come to Turin and I’ll be supported by not just 10, but 15 reasons why you should add this city to your travel list!
First of all, let me share with you some basic facts about Turin:
- It’s the Capital of the Italian region of Piedmont and it was the Capital of Italy until 1865.
- The city has a very peculiar layout due to its foundation as a Roman city. It looks like a Roman camp (called Castra), so all of its roads are straight (and it’s very hard to get lost).
- The city was a famous industrial center in the 20th century (Does anyone know a brand called FIAT?)
- In 2006 the city hosted the XX winter Olympics games.
- Together with Prague and Lyon, the city is part of a magical triangle (if you believe in magic of course).
- The taurus is the symbol of the city and that’s why there are small fountains (with drinkable water!) spread around called “Turet”
- In Turin there are 18 km of porches and 12 km of them are continuous.
1. Mole Antonelliana and Museum of Cinema
Let’s start with the landmark of the city, the Mole Antonelliana. The idea behind it was to build a synagogue, but instead, the huge building now hosts the National Museum of Cinema. It’s visible from everywhere if you are in the city centre so it helps you to orientate. The construction begun in 1863 by Alessandro Antonelli, it’s very tall, around 168 m and the spire on top was a later addition, around 1880.
If you were wondering… yes, you get on top of the tower. There’s a glass elevator inside that will get you on top in no time. Enjoy your ride by getting a glimpse of the beautiful museum inside. The top offers a breathtaking view of the city, the hills but more importantly: the Alps! It’s a show not to miss.
The fees for the National Museum of Cinema and the glass elevator are separate, so, even if you need to step into the Mole to buy the tickets, you don’t have to visit them both.
Trivia time: Locals believe that if you ride on top of it before getting a university degree, you won’t get one!
National Museum of Cinema
The National Museum of Cinema is one of the most important museums of the world when it comes to the cinematic heritage and it’s a must see, even if you are not interested in the history of cinema. It’s very interactive and you’ll get a full immersion into the world of images in motion. Also, the museum hosts a huge collection of film posters and movie props.With its incredibly tall main hall, the museum is the most extended in height of the world! Walk the infinite rise in it and you’ll know what I’m talking about. If you like cinematic festivals, then you must know that the National Museum of Cinema hosts many every year, the most important one being TorinoFilmFestival.
2. Piazza Castello – Main Square
This is the main square of the city where four of the major streets converge: via Roma, via Po, via Garibaldi and via Pietro Micca. Some of the most important buildings are located here such as Palazzo Reale, Palazzo Madama, Church of San Lorenzo, Teatro Regio and the list could go on but I’ll let you discover this square on your own.
Triva time: Every year, on the day when the schools ends in june, almost all students gather here to play with water in the fountains. It’s usually a mess but it’s fun to watch, unless you don’t like crowded places, in that case, stay away!
In Piazza Castello you must visit the former Royal Palace of the Savoia dynasty. From the outside it may seem a pretty plain building but, once you step inside, get ready to be mindblown by 26 luxuriously decorated appartements. The right-wing of the palace hosts the former RoyalArmory, one of the largest collections of armors in all Europe! There is also a library, which is one of the most impressive in Italy. Behind the Palace, you can visit for free the awesome RoyalGardens (love the fountain in it… just so you know), at the corner of which you’ll find the Museod’Antichità, museum filled with archaeological finds from prehistoric time to Roman era.
Still in Piazza Castello, this castle was built on the remains of the Roman east gate. The architect Filippo Juvarra enlarged it in 1718 by adding the west façade and the magnificent double staircase.
The Museo Civico d’Arte Antica is what you’ll find inside. If you are interested in history, you’ll like it. Discover Turin from a different perspective, from the Roman era, to the 18th century.
Designed and built by Guarino Guarini, this small church is a jewel often forgotten. It has a very peculiar planimetry. On the ground it’s like a square, that changes to an octagon with the entablatures only to become a Greek cross at the pendentives of the vaults.
The Teatro Regio is one of the most famous italian opera houses but it’s also very relevant on the European and international scene. Built in 1740, it was destroyed by a fire in 1936 and then rebuilt in 1973. The inside is beautiful, so, if you are passionate about the opera, I really advice you to go see one; it’s an experience you won’t forget and remember that, in Italy, we have some of the best opera singers.
3. More Squares
Piazza San Carlo
Piazza San Carlo is probably my favorite square in Turin. I like it because it’s quiet and under its arches there are some of Turin’s most stylish shops and historic cafés like Caffè San Carlo. The twin churches at one end are Santa Cristina and San Carlo. Right in the middle of Piazza San Carlo, stands the equestrian statue of Duke Emmanuel Philibert.
Piazza Vittorio Veneto
Piazza Vittorio Veneto is another of the most important squares in Turin. It’s huge and it hosts many social events due to its size. After the Olympic Games in 2006 the square has become fully pedestrian. At night is one of the main gathering places (especially on the weekends) for young people with its many clubs. On the other side of the bridge that crosses Po river you’ll find the stunning Chiesa della Gran Madre di Dio.
4. The Holy Shroud of Turin
Adjoining Palazzo Reale you’ll find the Cathedral of San Giovanni Battista whose main attraction is the Santa Sindone, the Holy Shroud. It’s rarely on view and, for the remaining time, is kept in VERY safe vault behind the altar.
If you don’t know what the Holy Shroud is, it’s a linen cloth that has the image of a man and many believe it was the burial shroud of Jesus. This cloth is the world’s most studied and controversial religious artifact and despite the never-ending researches, we are not yet certain if the shroud was that of Christ.
5. Porta Palatina
Near the cathedral of San Giovanni Battista, you can see this gate called Porta Palatina. This is the only remaining entrance out of four to the Roman city (another one has now been transformed into Palazzo Madama) and it’s also the best preserved Roman gate in the world. The ruins on the right side are from a Roman theater, although only part of it remains.
Museo Egizio (Egyptian Museum)
You may wonder what Egypt has to do with Turin… well, we have the biggest collection of Egyptian antiquities, except for Cairo of course. The collection started in 1824 when King Carlo Felice collected 5,268 artifacts from Egypt. Recent expeditions enlarged this collection and now, the Egyptian Museum is the second best in the world. Keep in mind that it’s huge, so you’ll need A LOT of time to visit it well.
The National Automobile Museum is one of the best and oldest automobile museums in the world. The exhibit is on 3 floors and it tells the story of the automobiles from its constructions to the social aspects linked with it. This allows the museum to attract a variegated public, from experts to young people and families. It’s also far from being a boring museum, so if you have time, go check it out.
Museo Civico Pietro Micca
This museum is not very well known unfortunately (I live in Turin and I visited it only when I was 19) but it’s very fascinating. Pietro Micca, the man to which the museum is dedicated, was a miner of the sabaudian era. He lost his life by detonating a mine to stop the French siege, saving the city. The first part of the museum showcases documents, prints and objects related to the siege of 1706. However, the cool part is downstairs, with the visitable mine galleries. They used to spread under the city for 14 km and you can visit a part of them.
Museo Nazionale del Risorgimento Italiano
Palazzo Carignano was the seat of the Italian parliament until 1864 and it’s now home of the Museum of the Risorgimento. Since this palace played a very important role in the unification of Italy, it’s only fitting that it’s now home of this museum. It’s huge and it showcases relics of the campaign for Italian unity and of the two world wars in 30 rooms! I know…it sounds like a lot but I swear the museum is well organized and explains perfectly the history (supported by films, and audio tours).
Museo delle Scienze Naturali
If you are passionate about plants and animals, then the Museum of Natural Sciences is an obliged stop. It has an immense library, so it’s a gathering place for researchers, students or artist interested in anatomy.
7. Borgo Medievale
If you want to visit something different from the usual palaces and squares, walk on the river banks into Parco del Valentino. Inside there’s a complete reconstruction of a medieval village, with its castle, shops and all! It was built for the Expo of 1991 and the inhabitants appreciated it so much that the government decided to keep it.
Inside the Palazzo dell’Accademia delle Scienze is the Galleria Sabauda, an art museum containing some of Turin’s greatest treasures. The collection includes works by the artists Paolo Veronese, Tintoretto and Canaletto, notable works of Beato Angelico, and an extensive collection of Dutch and Flemish works by Jan van Eyck, Van Dyck, and Rembrandt.
G.A.M. (Galleria d’Arte Moderna)
The Galleria d’Arte Moderna is vital to Modern and Contemporary art lovers and it has one of the finest collections of modern art in Italy. It’s divided in 2 floors, one dedicated to the 19th century and the other to 20th. Their collection has works of great masters like Severini, Boccioni, Dix and Klee.
Museo d’Arte Orientale
Recently opened, this museum is dedicated to Orient lovers. It’s like travelling to Asia, only cheaper! A must-see.
9. The Hill
The Hill of Turin is probably my favorite part of the city. With awesome houses and beautiful parks, this area offers some quiet after visiting the chaotic city center. Also, some of the best and most underrated attractions are here as well.
Monte dei Cappuccini
Monte dei Cappuccini is a hill of 283 m with a breathtaking view of the city and the mountains. It’s a pretty quiet place and you usually meet couples there. This attraction is not very well known, so I think tourists should come here more often. Also, it’s only a 10 minutes walk from piazza Vittorio: there are no excuses for missing this out!
On top of this hill, you’ll find the convent and the baroque church of Santa Maria al Monte, held by the Cappuccini friars, hence its name.
On the south aisle of the convent, you can find the National Museum of the Mountain, accessible from the panoramic square on top. There’s also a restaurant with a great view, but I can’t guarantee it’ll be cheap. Other things you can find here are an underground laboratory of nuclear physics and a house (via Gaetano Giardino 9) that has part of the historic archives of the Cappuccini friars.
Basilica di Superga
The Basilica of Superga is a beautiful church build in 1715 by Filippo Juvarra. It’s on top of the homonymous hill and It’s surrounded by gardens and walkable footpaths.
A tragedy occurred here on May the 4th 1949. A plane that was back from Lisboa with the players of the Grande Torino soccer team crushed on the hill, killing everyone on board. This tragic event is remembered by a headstone behind the building.
Villa della Regina
It’s a palace of the 17th century located on a hill not far from the city centre (20 minutes walk). From the top of the gardens you’ll get a great view of the city. It’s very cheap and if you are under 18 it’s free. The italian television shot here some tv shows, such as La bella e la bestia, an italian mini series.
10. Green Areas
I mentioned Parco del Valentino before and that is just one of the many green areas of Turin, some of the best are:
Parco della Tesoriera
Beautiful park even if not in the city centre. There is one of the oldest trees of the city here. Inside the park you’ll find the Tesoriera, a palace where the Savoia used to live. Now it’s a musical library.
Parco del Valentino
If you love views then this is the park for you. Located on the hill of Turin, you’ll have an incredible view of the city from here. Do not underestimate that you don’t have to pay anything to enjoy the landscape. The best time to come here is in spring, the trees are blossoming!
Parco della Mandria
This is the biggest enclosed park in all Europe. It’s located in Venaria, near Turin so if you visit the Reggia di Venaria Reale, you can rent a bike and go to explore this wonder of nature.
11. Reggia di Venaria Reale
« Who sees Turin but doesn’t see the Venaria, sees the mother but not the daughter »
If you visit Turin, you must also visit the Reggia di Venaria Reale. It’s one of the sabaudian residences and it’s a beautiful palace with an immense garden to get lost into. Its construction was ordered by Carlo Emanuele II as a hunting residence. The constructors picked the Valli di Lanzo as a location to be near Gran Paese, an immense wood full of game.
Trivia time: at first the village of Venaria didn’t exists, but with time, many citizens wanted to live near the palace, so, with time, it became an actual province of Turin.
12. Palazzina di Caccia di Stupinigi
The Palazzina di caccia of Stupinigi was one of the residences of Savoia, build for hunting. This palace is located in Stupinigi (around 10 km from Turin). The gardens have been used as a set for many fictions and tv shows such as Giochi senza Frontiere, Elisa di Rivombrosa, Ulysses: A Dark Odyssey, Cenerentola and Guerra e Pace. Also, the palace hosted the World Archery Championships in 2011. In 2004, 27 objects were stolen from the palace (for a value of 40 milion euros). Luckily all the works were recovered in a field near Villastellone a year later.
13. Po River
Po is the longest river in Italy. It originates in Piedmont and it flows through Turin. It’s crossed by many bridges, such as Vittorio Emanuele I (the oldest one that connects Piazza Vittorio with the Church of Gran Madre), Umberto I and Principessa Isabella. One of the best thing you could do in my opinion is a cruise on the river, maybe with a nice lunch on board! There are some companies that organize it, just go and have a walk in the Murazzi (the name of the river bank near Piazza Vittorio).
14. Grattacielo San Paolo
I’m currently punching myself for including this in my list, so let’s get this over with. Renzo Piano projected this skyscraper fairly recently, and many inhabitants of Turin hate it. I know that hate is a strong word, but this building ruins the atmosphere of the city. So you might be wondering why I included it, then. Well, first because Renzo Piano did it, then because on top there’s a starred restaurant. Also, you can go and have a drink there if you want, although I think that you need a reservation for that.
15. Cafées and food
Turin was the Capital of intellectuals in the 19th century. Cafés were in vogue, and famous accademics such as Cavour, gathered there to discuss philosophy, politics, science and the arts. Some of the best historic cafés are Caffé Al Bicerin, Caffé Gelateria Fiorio (try the ice cream there: cream and gianduja are the best flavors!), Caffè San Carlo and Caffé Platti.
Of course, being in italy, I had to mention the food! Aside from pizza, there are many specialty that are typical of Piedmont:
- Vitello tonnato (sliced veal covered with a sauce, similar to mayonnaise, flavored with tuna).
- Tomini al verde (Cheese served with a sauce called bagnet verd, made with parsley and anchovies).
- Agnolotti al Plin (smaller agnolotti with meat in it).
- Tajarin (noodles made from eggs and served with tomato sauce or ragout).
- Fritto misto alla piemontese (combination of fried meat, fruit and sweets).
- Gran bollito misto piemontese (boiled meat, served with bagnèt verd).
- Bagna càuda (sauce made of anchovies and garlic where you can dip thistle, Jerusalem artichoke, grilled peppers, salad or cabbage leaves).
- Bonet (pudding cooked with amaretti and cocoa).
- Baci di dama (2 cokies held together by a layer of chocolate).
- Bicerin (similar to a cappuccino, it’s served in a cup with a base of melted hot chocolate, then coffee and milk on top).
This is the end of my list and I hope I convinced you to come to Turin. Feel free to share this and if you need more information or if you just want a guide, contact me away!
If you want to know more about Turin, check out this awesome guide by The Crazy Tourist! There you’ll find 15 more things to do in this amazing city.