Torino is my beloved hometown.
The city where I was born, I grew up, went to school, attended university and met my husband. It is my warm nest every time I go back to Italy, and where all my family live. I also think it is one of Italy's most gorgeous cities - but I may be biased... in any case it is absolutely worth-it of a detour when you are in Northern Italy.
Culture, history, architecture, style, food, wine: you won't be disappointed!
On top of that, Torino lies lays between the Alps (which you can see even from the city center and where there are many exceptional ski resorts) and the famous wine regions of Langhe and Monferrato. Three experiences in one region.
(Click on the map to enlarge it)
Torino is the capital of the northwest Italian region of Piemonte, and is the third largest city in Italy, with a population of around 900,000 inhabitants.
Quoting from Wikipedia: "The city has a rich culture and history, being known for its numerous art galleries, restaurants, churches, palaces, opera houses, piazzas, parks, gardens, theatres, libraries, museums and other venues. Turin is well known for its Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo, Neo-classical, and Art Nouveau architecture. Many of Turin's public squares, castles, gardens and elegant palazzi such as the Palazzo Madama, were built between the 16th and 18th centuries. A part of the historical center of Turin was inscribed in the World Heritage List under the name Residences of the Royal House of Savoy. The city used to be a major European political center. From 1563, it was the capital of the Duchy of Savoy, then of the Kingdom of Sardinia ruled by the Royal House of Savoy, and the first capital of the unified Italy (the Kingdom of Italy) from 1861 to 1865. Turin is sometimes called "the cradle of Italian liberty" for having been the birthplace and home of notable individuals who contributed to the Risorgimento, such as Cavour.
The city currently hosts some of Italy's best universities, colleges, academies, lycea and gymnasia, such as the University of Turin, founded in the 15th century, and the Turin Polytechnic. In addition, the city is home to museums such as the Museo Egizio and the Mole Antonelliana. Turin's attractions make it one of the world's top 250 tourist destinations and the tenth most visited city in Italy in 2008. Even though much of its political significance and importance had been lost by World War II, Turin became a major European crossroad for industry (home to FIAT cars), commerce and trade, and is part of the famous "industrial triangle" along with Milan and Genoa. Since it hosted in 2006 the Winter Olympics the city has had a complete restyling that boosted economy and tourism enormously".
If you want a good introduction of the province and a sense of what the entire area offers, in terms of things to see and to do, check this very extensive brochure.
Turin has a (rather) small international airport (Città di Torino - Caselle) from which you can reach the city center in 20 minutes by train.
There are also two main train stations: both Porta Nuova and Porta Susa are centrally located (10 minutes by care far from each other) and connected with tons of public transportation options. There is a metro line which is brand new, very nice, and safe, and you can use it to get to the Southern part of the city, for example where Eataly is. Check out all the routes, including the airport transfer, here.
When you tour the city, keep in mind that Torino was founded Augusta Taurinorum by the Romans around 28 BC as a military camp (Castra Taurinorum). Therefore, with some exceptions, the typical Roman street grid layout -with cardo and decumanus- will make your exploration of the city very easy!
I have many areas to recommend in terms of accommodation, but my favorite one is the area between Piazza Castello and Piazza Vittorio, around via Po, the central, elegant, historic district, with dozens of food options/stores, museums, and populated with students (many schools of the University of Torino are there).
Several friends turned their second-apartments into lovely Airbnbs':
Francesca owns the very lovely B&B Foresteria degli artisti on Piazza Vittorio, one of my favorite square of Torino, and has another one few blocks east of that. All the friends I have sent there were happy and satisfied with the experience, especially because you get to live in a real "torinese" house and Francesca has plenty of useful tips for her guests.
Our dear friends Serena and Dario own a lovely Airbnb in the San Salvario area (full of restaurants and close to the train station):
and another one in the very elegant residential area of Crocetta:
While Giulia, also happens to own two lovely -and highly reviewed- bed and breakfasts in the same area:
Another dear friend, Diego, owns this beautiful apartment by the river and the Valentino Castle:
Another couple of options in the same area:
A new glamorous hostel in the heart of the city: Combo Torino
As for hotels, Palazzo del Carretto is a private palace turned into a beautiful boutique hotel in one of the city's nicest buildings.
NH Piazza Carlina is another upscale & chic hotel that has an excellent location (my second favorite square in Torino).
Around the central areas between the Po river, via Po, Piazza Castello, Piazza San Carlo, Via Roma, Piazza Solferino and Piazza Carlo Felice, you can walk everywhere under the historic covered archways -which is one of the distinctive characteristics of Torino. Perfect for strolling even on a rainy day!
If you start from Piazza Vittorio near the river Po, you can begin your walk right on Via Po (you can stop at Caffé Elena outside for a nice cappuccino) and either turn right on the second street, that takes you to the Mole Antonelliana --the famous tower and symbol of the city-- that hosts the Museo Nazionale del Cinema (an absolutely must see -my sister works there ;-). They even have an Eataly cafeteria. One block away is my old high school and one of the oldest in the city, Liceo Ginnasio V. Gioberti, and what used to be the University of Torino's main humanities and social studies campus, plus the Law School that I attended (the ugly huge '60s building, now relocated few blocks away). The oldest building of the University, founded in the 1600s, is on the right side of Via Po and its lovely courtyard will be hard to miss.
If you instead turn left after the first block of Via Po, you can head towards Piazza Maria Teresa and Piazza Cavour, two lovely, quaint squares that I adore, in one of the most exclusive residential streets of central Torino.
Another historic square, Piazza Carlina, is also very near and is where you can go see my brother in law's designer eyewear company’s showroom “Vanni"… very cool glasses and a nice store! Walk inside and tell them you’re my friend! You can go back on Via Po where you find another great pasticceria, Caffé Fiorio, famous for gelato al gianduja, or head to the famous Piazza Carlo Alberto and Piazza Carignano (where the first Italian Parliament was and the Museo of Risorgimento is), and from there to the Egyptian Museum. Recently renovated, it is the second most important Egyptian museum in the world, only second to Cairo. The building is fantastic itself, and it’s an absolute must if you like history and archeology.
In Piazza Carlo Alberto you can see the rear of Palazzo Carignano, with an interesting 19th century style façade, different from the 17th century Baroque face facing Piazza Carignano. Piazza Carlo Alberto is connected to Piazza Castello by a beautiful gallery "Galleria Subalpina" where the historic café Baratti and Milano is, the most famous pasticceria where you can taste wonderful paste -small beignets- and their very famous chocolate.
Piazza Castello is the main square of central Torino, and there you can visit Palazzo Reale, where the royal Savoy family used to live, and Palazzo Madama (which usually has nice exhibitions). If you walk through a small arch on the left side of the royal palace, you reach another very historic area and the marvelous Giardini Reali (the Royal palace's gardens). There you can visit the main cathedral, the Duomo of Torino (with a replica of the Holy Shroud and a small museum attached to it), another very important museum, the "Biblioteca reale" (where you can see the famous Leonardo self portrait, and the roman ruins (il Foro e le Porte Palatine). The whole area is now one single tourist attraction, "il Polo reale", and you can find all the info here.
On the other side of Palazzo reale you will see a more "modern" street lined with arches (in fact, it was completely restyled during Fascism), Via Roma, where the fanciest shops of Torino are. The first section of it will lead you to Piazza San Carlo, the “living room of Torino”, a very elegant and beautiful square, where you can visit the newly renovated Gallerie d'Italia, a beautiful new venue for arts and culture (especially photography exhibits) right before drinking an aperitivo in one of the many nice cafés, it will remind you a lot of France! The second section of Via Roma will lead you to the main train station, Porta Nuova, and just before it, the very nice small square of Piazza Carlo Felice.
From Piazza Castello you can also walk through the oldest part of the city, called the Quadrilatero, with very narrow streets full of little stores (especially the pedestrian Via Garibaldi) and good restaurants and cafes -including the famous Caffè Al Bicerin-, next to the beautiful church of the Santuario della Consolata. The whole area is also very diverse, being close to the biggest open air market in Europe, Porta Palazzo, and the new cool indoor market of Mercato Centrale.
Every Saturday there is also an attached flea market called "Balon" where you can find all sorts of things (and the second Sunday of each month, the bigger one, "Gran Balon")
In fact, every weekday around Torino you can find outdoor markets that sell much more than food and are actually the place to go to find the best clothing deals. My favorite ones are the Mercato of Piazza Benefica (a 20 walk from Porta Susa), Mercato della Crocetta, Mercato di Via Madama Cristina, Mercato di Corso Spezia, and Mercato di Corso Valdocco. This website provides a comprehensive list of them.
If you get lost around the city center, it's not a problem, since it is all very nice and safe. Peek inside the palazzi to see beautiful courtyards… for example Palazzo Granieri in via Bogino or the palazzo where NH hotel in Piazza Carlina is. From there you can head back to the river, walking in Via Giolitti for example, or via Cavour, passing by Piazza Bodoni, where one of my favorite restaurants is (see below). Parco Valentino, next to the river, is beautiful park that starts from the bridge at the end of Corso Vittorio. There, you can walk to the Castello del Valentino & Borgo Medioevale that, even though it’s a fake castle (made for the Universal exposition of 1884), is a nice monument that is very much a symbol of Torino.
The neighborhood between the Valentino park and the train station is called San Salvario and used to be a little sketchy, but now has been transformed into a very trendy and lively area, full of dozens of restaurants, bars, and clubs -- so if you’re there around 7-8 pm you should definitely stop for an aperitivo, especially near via Saluzzo!
If you have time, cross the Po river towards the Church Gran Madre di Dio and head to the hills surrounding Torino (where I grew up), full of beautiful historic villas (like Villa della Regina, and a great view of the city.
If you want to visit another beautiful archeological museum, don't miss the Museo di Antichità, behind Palazzo reale. Just a block away is the Museo di Arte Orientale (MAO), a fantastic museum located in a 17th-century palazzo. The museum contains one of the most important collections of Asian art in Italy.
The city's main Contemporary art museums are the GAM, located in the more residential area of Crocetta, on Corso Vittorio, or the Castello di Rivoli, where one of Italy’s most famous contemporary art collections is displayed in an elegant 18th century castle, owned again by the Savoia family.
Camera/Center for Photography has also just opened near Piazza Cavour and has beautiful photo exhibits all year long.
If you are interested in cars instead, and you want to see Torino from another angle, by the river overlooking the hills, check the fabulous Museo Nazionale dell'Automobile, the best one in Italy of its kind - also thanks to its main sponsor, FIAT. You can easily reach it with a short 15-minute taxi or bus ride from the city center
From the center of Torino you can easily hop on a public bus and reach one of the many parks that surround the city.
The Parco della Rimembranza or Maddalena is the tallest peak on the hills above the Po river (and from there you have the best view of the city and the nearby Alps -- I grew up just 5 minutes from it!).
Another lovely field trip is to the Colle di Superga, known for the famous baroque Basilica of Superga and its royal crypt, which is the traditional burial place of members of the House of Savoy. From the bottom of the hill you can reach the top via the historic Superga Rack Railway, Torino's oldest cable car! The place is also infamous for the Superga air disaster of 1949, in which the entire Torino football team, the Grande Torino, perished.
A must-see, if you have time and a car, would be the wonderful Venaria Reale, the royal palace and its gardens (Italy’s Versailles) that is renowned for a fantastic Galleria di Diana and often hosts many nice exhibits.
Or go to another palace built by the Savoy Royal family as a hunting lodge, the Palazzina di caccia di Stupinigi.
Finally another monument, symbol of Piedmont Region and the place that inspired the writer Umberto Eco to conceive the best-seller “Il nome della rosa” (The Name of the Rose), is the Sacra of San Michele - an ancient abbey built between 983 and 987 on the top of mount Pirchiriano, 40 km from Turin. From it’s towers, you can admire Turin and a breathtaking view of the Val di Susa.
Food-wise, Torino is a real mecca, and it’s not because I come from there!
I already told you about the pasticcerie (patisseries) that are particularly good, Torino being the capital of chocolate and small “paste” (beignets). Here's a short list of them.
Besides them you should also visit Gobino, which is one block from Museo Egizio and next to Eataly in Via Lagrange. But for the real Eataly, you should take the metro and head to Lingotto, the industrial area where the Fiat factories used to be, now transformed into a commercial area with a very cool art museum Pinacoteca Agnelli, and the first Eataly, of course. You should really go see it if you like Italian food, and you can also eat there, it’s worth it!
Another newly opened Michelin-starred restaurant, lead by Ferran Adriá and chef Federico Zanasi, is inside the new building Nuvola Lavazza and it's called Condividere: (a 5 minutes ride from the city center).
Few blocks away from Piazza Vittorio, on the right side looking at the Mole, there is an area called "Vanchiglia" that is increasingly becoming more and more popular for food options...
Various restaurants that I like:
· Da Cianci near the Duomo, the best deal for delicious, simple food! And in one of the few medieval squares in Torino
· In piazza Vittorio with tables au dèhors, Porto di Savona
· Next door, Da Michele (famous for little pizza)
· Casual, for lunch, Poormanger
· Another casual lunch, in a beautiful building, Circolo dei Lettori
· Near Piazza Castello, Consorzio
· A surprise menu in one of Torino's hottest restaurant right now: E' cucina
· Same area, Banco Vini e Alimenti
· Near Piazza Bodoni, Casa del Barolo
· Ballatoio (piedmontese)
· Bastimento (Southern Italian cuisine)
· Salsedine (seafood)
· Oinos (Sushiliano! Sicilian cuisine applied to sushi!)
· Magazzino 52 (piedmontese, near Via Mazzini and the Po river)
· Contesto Alimentare near Via Mazzini
· Mercato Centrale, in the heart of Porta Palazzo's market
· Combo Torino also in Porta Palazzo
· Gelateria Fiorio in Via Po
· Gelateria Nivá in Piazza Vittorio
· Gelateria Alberto Marchetti in Corso Vittorio
Zona San Salvario
· In San Salvario,
· Gallina scannata (via Saluzzo)
· Silos (Via santa Giulia)
· Trattoria All'ala (in front of Silos),
Check these two websites for a complete guide of the WINE regions of Langhe-Roero and Monferrato (home to Barolo, barbera, Barbaresco, Dolcetto, Nebbiolo and Spumante among the many others) where you can also taste the best Piedmontese food and visit beautiful picturesque towns and castles perched on the countryside hills. This area has just been made a "World Heritage site" by Unesco for the uniqueness of its landscape, history, culture, and outstanding enogastronomic products.
This guide is more specific for the Barolo area: http://www.stradadelbarolo.it/en/
Here are some cantine recommended by my wonderful friends Fabio, Giulia, Luisa, Fabio and Stefania, and my sister in law Alessia:
-Fratelli Giacosa, Neive
-Cantine Coppo, Canelli (and also Unesco World Heritage site)
-Cantina Rizzi, Treiso
-Tenuta Cucco, Serralunga d'Alba
-Cantina Renato Ratti, La Morra
-Marchesi di Barolo, Barolo
-Franco Conterno, Monteforte d'Alba
-Cantina Sòt, Monteforte d'Alba
-Casa Borgogno, Barolo
-Cordero di Montezemolo, La Morra
-Cantine Fenocchio, Monforte d'Alba
-Vigne Pio Cesare, Barolo
-Fratelli Alessandria, Barolo
-Cantina sociale di Nizza, Nizza Monferrato
The historic town of Alba is well worth a visit, also for the world-famous tartufo bianco (white truffle), especially in the fall, when there is the yearly International Alba White Truffle Fair.
If you are near Ceretto, you cannot miss this beautiful little church, "The Chapel of Barolo", and the art exhibitions all around this area: http://www.ceretto.com/en/experience/art-and-co/the-chapel-of-barolo
Here are some videos about Torino:
(Italy unpacked, BBC)
(A day and night in Turin, Condé Nast) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VPa8UJidj7s
(A weekend in Torino) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L2NK5Ro2w_Q
(A walk around the city centre) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dobPkC25HdQ
36 hours in Turin, by the New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/01/travel/36-hours-in-turin-italy.html?mtrref=www.google.com&gwh=506214588A6F7DB09858BB5BDDF07E43&gwt=pay
An Alternative guide of Turin, by The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2015/jul/27/alternative-city-guide-turin-italy
How to spend 48 hours in Turin (Culture trip): https://theculturetrip.com/europe/italy/articles/how-to-spend-48-hours-in-turin-italy/
Here are the slides of a lecture I presented at Loyola University of Maryland February 2019 about Turin, it's past and it's present.
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